Continuing its incremental approach to gay rights, the Obama administration is preparing to announce regulations that would make same-sex partners of federal employees eligible for more benefits.

The Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage and denies same sex couples a range of federal benefits. President Obama has refused to articulate his personal convictions on gay marriage, preferring to leave the issue up to the states and saying only Congress has the authority to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

But Obama has ordered the Department of Justice to cease defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court and backed congressional efforts to overturn the law, signaling his opposition. The administration is preparing to announce a new set of federal regulations that would undermine the Defense of Marriage Act without requiring the approval of Congress.

We've been working hard on a lot of domestic partner benefits, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry told The Washington Post. We will continue to pursue domestic partner benefit legislation for FEHBP [Federal Employees Health Benefits Program] and retiree benefits as an administration priority.

Those benefits include making children of same-sex partnerships eligible for child-care subsidies; allowing same-sex partners of federal employees to participate in employee assistance programs; and giving same-sex partners more power to choose retirement options.

Extending equal benefits to the same-sex partners of Federal employees is the right thing to do, Obama said in a statement accompanying a 2009 memo outlining the policy. It is also sound economic policy. Many top employers in the private sector already offer benefits to the same-sex partners of their employees; those companies recognize that offering partner benefits helps them compete for and retain the brightest and most talented employees.

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