More Incremental Steps Towards Equality for Same-Sex Partners of Federal Employees

On July 28 the Obama Administration published in the Federal Register three proposals to amend existing regulations to provide various forms of recognition to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees.  While each of these three proposals is minor in the overall scheme of things, they cumulate with prior such actions over the past two years to implement President Obama's goal of affording equality of rights to same-sex couples when one of them works for the federal government.

The first proposal, published at 76 Fed. Reg. 45204, concerns a regulation authorizing noncmopetitive appointments for family-members of federal employees who have been posted overseas.  If a family member of a federal worker posted overseas was also working while living overseas with that family member, the federal employee is brought back to the U.S., the regulation authorizes the family member's appointment to a position in the competitive service here.  The regulation is referred to as "noncompetitive appointment of certain former overseas employees."  The purpose of the proposal is to extend the meaning of family member to include same-sex domestic partners, and to give them the same employment opportunities after an overseas posting as are enjoyed by legal spouses.  The proposal would amend 5 CFR Part 315.608(e), and includes its own definition of a domestic partnership, limited to same-sex partners who are in a committed relationship, maintain a common residence (or would do so if not for particular specified obstacles), are adults, share responsibility for financial obligations and are not related in a way that would preclude them from marrying in a U.S. jurisdiction where same-sex marriage is available.  The deadline for public comments on this proposal is September 26.  Comments can be submitted online, identified by RIN 3206-AM35, by email to or by dRuling Portal:  All electronic submissions need to use the identifier code to be routed to the correct person.

The second proposal, published at 76 Fed. Reg. 43205, concerns evacuation pay and maintenance allowances for domestic partners of federal employees posted to the remote Pacific island facility of Johnston Island.  The purpose of the proposal is to ensure that domestic partners of employees with such postings, as well as any children of the domestic partners, have access to the same benefits assistance that is currently afforded to legally recognized spouses and their children.   Once again, this is done by expanding the definition of family members to include same-sex domestic partners and their children, in 5 CFR 591.402, and adding language on domestic partners to 5 CFR 591.403.  Comments are due by September 26, using the identifier RIN 3206-AM31.

The third proposal would expand eligibility for participation in child care cost subsidies and alcohol and drug abuse programs.  Domestic partners would have the same rights as legal spouses for participation in these programs.  This proposal is published at 76 Fed. Reg. 45208, and involves amending 5 CFR 792 (RIN 3206-AL36).  Comments for this are due sooner – August 29 – and may similarly be sent through ERulingmaking Portal, but the announcement in the Federal Register does not specify that direct email comments can be submitted.  Written comments can be sent to Ingrid Burford, Work Life Program Specialist, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, 1900 E St., N.W., Rm. 7456, Washington DC 20415-9700.

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