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Same-sex couple: 'We've been treated like second-class citizens'

  • Story Highlights
  • Ed Horvath, a federal worker, unable to get health benefits for his partner
  • Obama extended certain federal benefits to domestic partners of federal employees
  • Only Congress has authority to change regulations on benefits for domestic partners
From Xuan Thai
CNN White House Producer
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Ed Horvath and Richard Neidich met 30 years ago this month. They first called themselves boyfriends, then partners, and now have been married for five years, according to Massachusetts law.

Ed Horvath, left, and Richard Neidich have been together almost 30 years but get very few federal benefits.

Ed Horvath, left, and Richard Neidich have been together almost 30 years but get very few federal benefits.

Over the years, the men have cared for each other -- when Horvath was crippled with severe arthritis and Neidich with a rare form of pancreatic cancer. Today, both men are fairly healthy, but they still worry about what the future holds, especially now that Neidich, 69, is nearing retirement, with no employer to provide health insurance coverage.

Horvath, a longtime employee of the Government Accountability Office, a federal agency, is perplexed about why Neidich can't receive federal benefits as his domestic partner.

"We've been together almost 30 years, and we get very few federal benefits," Horvath said. "A heterosexual couple who would marry, within five seconds would have what we haven't been able to have in almost 30 years, and I think that's very sad."

On Wednesday, President Obama extended certain federal benefits to the domestic partners of federal employees. These benefits include long-term care, sick leave to take care of others and certain benefits for foreign service workers, but not full health care benefits for domestic partners. Video Watch Horvath and his partner call for fairness »

Federal benefits are designated by law, and only Congress has the authority to change the regulations regarding benefits for domestic partners.

Horvath points out that like many other couples nearing retirement, they consider health care an important issue in determining their future.

"It's a very significant impact on how you live, and how you would live into retirement particularly," he said. "We've both had major medical issues, and getting to this point is great for us. We're thrilled to be together and have relatively good health, but you know, we've had some rough spots, and not having the reliability of having benefits, if something were to happen to me now, looking forward for Richard, it might be a struggle."

Although both men want full health care benefits for domestic partners of federal employees, Horvath is quick to point out that he understands that changes to the federal benefits law will take time.

"I'm disappointed that it can't go farther," he said, "but I understand the limitations on what he [Obama] can do just with presidential power. ... I'm very optimistic that this will move ahead. Most of corporate America, most of the Fortune 500 companies have already been providing these benefits. So it's just the government catching up.

"It's nothing new, it's nothing radical. This is just a matter of equity."

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Even knowing that change takes time, Horvath does take it personally.

"I feel like we've been treated like second-class citizens throughout my federal career. It hasn't been too long ago in American history that many other couples and many other families were denied coverage."

All About Health Care PolicyBarack ObamaGay and Lesbian Relationships

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