July 25, 2012
Last week, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) took a major step towards ensuring family equality for its federal employees. In the Administration’s continued efforts to provide equal benefits to LGBT federal employees, OPM proposed a rule that will extend important benefits to children of same-sex couples.
OPM’s proposed rule will allow federal employees who receive health care insurance though the federal government to cover their partner’s children even if the partner is not a legal parent. After a 60 day comment period, OPM will move to finalize and then publish the final regulation, which will become effective 30 days after it is issued. Once the rule goes into effect, children of same-sex partners will be eligible to receive coverage under their parent’s federal health, dental, and vision plans. This is a major shift from the current practice, which allows coverage for a partner’s child only if the employee legally adopted the partner’s child or is otherwise a legal parent.
Given the systemic legal barriers that many LGBT families face, this rule will be a major victory for LGBT family equality. Many of the children of same sex couples live in states that do not legally recognize their parents’ relationship to each other or their parents’ relationship to their children. Consequently, these children have far fewer protections than children of different-sex parents, especially in terms of benefit-eligibility. OPM’s proposed rule will rectify this inequity for LGBT federal workers and their families. These parents will no longer have to worry about their children being denied health coverage because their parents are a same sex couple.
While this rule is indeed a major step in the right direction, the effort to ensure the full protection of LGBT federal employees and their families is far from over. When enacted, OPM’s rule will only extend coverage to the children of federal employees in same sex relationships. Their partners, however, will remain uncovered. This is why NCLR will continue to encourage Congress to enact comprehensive legislation, such as Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, to ensure that same-sex partners of federal employees are eligible for a broader range of federal benefits. We will also continue to work with the Administration in their efforts to provide their federal LGBT employees with equal access to benefits and protections.