Obama Signs Memorandum For Gay Benefits
Barack Obama signaled to gay rights activists Wednesday that he's listening to their priorities by extending some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. But he didn't give them even close to everything they want, bringing growing anger against the president to the surface. "We all have to acknowledge this is only one step," Obama said in the Oval Office, where he signed a memorandum that made incremental changes to benefits offered to the same-sex partners of gay federal employees. But the president's critics - and there were many - saw Wednesday's meager move to expand gay rights as little more than pandering to a reliably Democratic voting bloc, with the primary aim not of making policy more fair but of cutting short a fundraising boycott."When a president tells you he's going to be different, you believe him," said John Aravosis, a Washington-based gay activist. "It's not that he didn't follow through on his promises, he stabbed us in the back." Obama has refused to take any concrete steps toward a repeal of a policy that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, even though as a candidate he pledged to scrap the Clinton-era rules. He similarly has refused to step in and block the dismissal of gays and lesbians who face courts martial for disclosing their sexual orientation. Obama said he wants to see the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and in its place a law that would give the partners of gay and lesbian federal employees health insurance and survivor benefits, among other things.