Blog Archive

On June 2, 2010, President Obama released a statement addressing the extension of employee benefits to same sex partners of federal employees.  Last year, he issued a Presidential Memorandum stating that the Office of Personnel Management and the Secretary of the State were to extend such benefits as long-term care insurance and expanded sick leave to same sex partners of identified gay and lesbian federal employees.  At that time, he also instructed federal agencies to identify other benefits that should be made available to same sex partners.  Based on this identification process, in his recent statement, he has instructed all executive agencies to immediately extend more benefits to same sex partners, such as family assistance services, hardship transfers, and relocation expenses.  It also requires any new benefits that are made available to federal employees’ be automatically extended to their same sex partners, so long as it is permitted by law.

The President also addressed the shortcomings of his ability to extend the full range of available benefits for federal employees and their opposite sex partners.  This ability is limited by Federal law, and, in turn, he urges the legislative branch of the federal government to enact a piece of legislation titled the “Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act,” which proposes to, among other things, give him such authority.

Maryland’s Attorney General, Doug Gansler issued a similar opinion, which stated that State employees’ same sex partners should be eligible to receive health-care and other benefits that are currently made available to opposite sex partners.  This legal opinion was codified by Governor O’Malley’s administration, allowing members of same-sex unions who work for the State of Maryland to enroll their partners in their state employee benefits program.

The New York Court of Appeals has held that, under New York law, a same-sex partner who had not legally adopted her partner’s biological child cannot assert visitation rights.  The court determined that only biological or adoptive parents can seek visitation and other rights over a child.  The lesbian couple has received a civil union in Vermont, but New York has no civil union law, and they do not recognize same-sex marriage.  However, the court did recognize the doctrine of comity require New York to defer to the law of Vermont, which recognizes her as a parent.

In Maryland, Attorney General Gansler issued an non-binding opinion stating that Maryland state agencies should recognize same-sex marriages from other states.  This opinion was also based on the principle of comity, i.e. the respect for the laws of other states.  A similar case has been winding its way through the Maryland Court System for the past few years, only the courts have been looking it solely as a de factor parenthood case based on exceptional circumstances.  It is yet to be seen what effect Gansler’s opinion could have on Maryland courts when faced with such issues.