White House officials have announced President Obama will sign a memorandum on Wednesday which will extend health and other benefits to gay partners of federal employees.
Media reports have suggested the timing of the announcement may be related to the barrage of criticism from gay rights groups the administration has been facing in recent days.
Earlier this week, the Justice Department filed legal papers in support of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which bans the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions as marriages. Shortly before that, the government had expressed support for the Supreme Court recent decision to uphold the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy.
While calling today’s decision "terrific," Richard Socarides, an adviser to the Clinton administration on gay issues, said Obama had promised much but delivered little thus far, quoted by the New York Times.
"So more important now is what he says about the future for gay people during his presidency," he added.
Meanwhile, Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins has said the president’s move violates the DOMA.
"[The executive order] uses taxpayer money to placate an angry portion of his base at the expense of the rule of law," Perkins commented.
He added the FRC lawyers intend to look closely at the new law to determine what further course of action to take.