What's the difference between an 18-year-old girl slinging lattes 30 hours a week at Starbucks for $5 an hour and a middle-aged man who has put in years behind a desk working for their country? Well, other than a potential latte-quality divide, the difference is this: If both of those people happened to be married to a person of the same gender, one of them would get medical benefits. The part-time, minimum wage 18-year-old barista's wife would get better benefits than the civil servant's husband.
An administration official last night leaked that President Barack Obama would be signing an executive memorandum granting some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees at 5:45 p.m. today. The problem, however, is that stipulations in the Defense of Marriage Act -- which Obama's Department of Justice issued a memo in support of just last week -- prevent same-sex couples from being granted full benefits. More likely, the memo will allot them some relocation expenses paid, or some other paltry flail toward positive change. Additionally, the minimal change Obama can mandate by order of a memorandum becomes null and void the moment his term as president is over.
If this hadn't come without such a fight, it could be considered a miniscule victory. As it is, the marginal benefits Obama is likely to offer seem like a dismissive nod toward one of the domographics who helped elect him and have been repaid with one snub after another.
In addition to the blows on DOMA, Don't Ask Don't Tell and immigration, Obama is clearly looking to pick up points before Vice President Joe Biden attends the Democratic National Convention fundraiser meant to ply cash from gay and lesbian Democrats on June 25. One by one, high-profile gay names are pulling out of attending the $1,000-per-plate fundraiser, citing the president's support of DOMA as their reason. No rights, no respect, no cash for the party, they say. Obama is grasping at straws trying to save face and win back the wallets of his gay constituency.
For an allegedly progressive president, it sure is strange that a chain coffee company treats its gay and lesbian employees with more respect and equality than does the federal government.
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