Same-sex partners of federal workers could soon be getting benefits - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Same-sex partners of federal workers could soon be getting benefits

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WASHINGTON. - In Washington Wednesday, President Obama is making a major move toward gay rights.

He is extending some, but not all federal benefits to the same-sex partners of federal workers, but the move is controversial, even among gay activists.

When unemployment specialist, Keith Ribnick, came to the Labor Department four years ago, he gave up the benefits that his former employer offered his partner, David Vanduyn.

Now David gets coverage, along with Keith.

Federal worker Keith Ribnick said, "So this was a day I was waiting for and again, we are just so thrilled! Because you never expect it's going to happen and when it does and unexpectedly, that's even better!"

Many federal workers are surprised and pleased.

Federal worker Rebecca Hummel said, "People serving our country deserve the benefits whether they are gay or straight."

Federal worker Michael Schaffner said, "I think it's great now that they have some of the same benefits that I do."

In December 2008, President Obama said, "It's no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans."

Campaigning last year, Mr. Obama promised action on gay issues.

President Obama has not changed the Pentagon's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy.

President Obama's Justice Department filed a legal brief against gay marriage

Now Mr. Obama will OK rule changes to, for example, allow federal workers to use leave to care for a same-sex partner, but the partners won't get health coverage.

Some gay and lesbian activists wanted more.

Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, said, "We have a number of reasons to be upset and we will continue to push this President, this administration and this Congress."

Anti-gay rights activists are upset, too.

Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council said, "If we extend benefits of marriage to people who are not married, then we undermine the status of marriage within our culture."

Gay marriage is the biggest issue and that fight is still ahead.

Both sides agree that Wednesday's move by President Obama to OK benefits like leave to care for a same-sex partner is big on symbolism, but it is still a baby step.
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