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More action needed on gay rights, groups say

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish groups praised President Obama for granting domestic partnership benefits for gay and lesbian federal employees, but criticized him for not doing more for gay rights.

Obama signed a presidential memorandum Wednesday allowing the benefits, including giving same-sex partners access to long-term care insurance and sick leave to a federal employee caring for a domestic partner.

"Gay federal employees are no less worthy of domestic partnership benefits than their heterosexual counterparts, and it is past time that progress is made toward equality," said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, in a statement. "Yet, despite today’s steps forward, today’s memorandum does not include coverage of health care benefits for the partners of federal employees and we find the policy wanting. We are also in want of a clear indication from the Administration that earnest efforts are being made toward a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. And we continue to wait for gay and lesbian members of our armed services to be permitted to serve openly."

The National Council of Jewish Women also urged Obama to repeal the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy.

"President Obama’s new memorandum extending some personnel benefits to the domestic partners of federal employees is a modest but welcome first-step toward making equal rights for gays and lesbians a reality," said NCJW President Nancy Ratzan. But "it does nothing to reverse the damaging ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy that has deprived our military of the much needed knowledge and skills of those gays and lesbians who would enlist, and deprived those potential enlistees of their right to serve. Ending ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ ought to be a national security and human rights priority of the administration."

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