President Obama will sign a memorandum Wednesday granting health care and other benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees, two senior administration officials said.
The signing will take place in the Oval Office and follows sharp criticism of the president over a Justice Department motion filed last week in support of the Defense of Marriage Act — which opposes same-sex marriage — that used the government’s interest in opposing incestuous marriages to support its position against same-sex marriage. Gay and lesbian advocates have also faulted the Obama administration for not moving to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bars officials from asking about a service member’s sexual orientation but also bars the service member from revealing it. The president rankled gay advocates before his inauguration when he named megachurch pastor the Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his swearing-in. Warren, in an interview with Belief.net, likened homosexuality to bestiality and incest. He also supported California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in that state. During the Warren controversy, Obama — who frequently spoke in favor of gay and lesbian rights during the campaign but has said he opposes same-sex marriage — declared himself “a fierce advocate for gay and lesbian Americans.”