Two months ago he ordered HHS to extend visitation rights to gays in hospitals receiving federal funding, but this is obviously much, much broader in scope.

Executive orders: Is there anything they can’t do?

The Labor Department intends to issue regulations this week ordering businesses to give gay employees equal treatment under a law permitting workers unpaid time off to care for newborns or loved ones.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis planned to announce Wednesday that the government would require employers to extend the option that has been available to heterosexual workers for almost two decades, two officials briefed on the plan said Monday. Neither was authorized to speak publicly ahead of the announcement…

The Family and Medical Leave Act allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to take care of loved ones or themselves. The 1993 law, which also allows employees to take time off for adoptions, has previously only been applied to heterosexual couples.

The Labor Department planned to extend those rights based on a new interpretation of the law, the officials said. There was no plan to ask Congress to change the law, which means future presidents could reverse the decision.

I’m surprised that he didn’t ask Congress to handle this. Sure, it’s a hot-button issue with the midterms looming, but we already crossed that bridge when the House okayed repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” by a wide margin. Presumably The One figures that as mainstream acceptance of gays grows, even a future Republican president won’t dare rescind the order. In which case, why force another tough vote on the Blue Dogs?

The only thing I can’t figure out is “why now?” It’s not like he’s trapped in a relentlessly horrible media cycle and searching for something to placate his increasingly restive, disillusioned base. Is it?

Tags: Barack Obama