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House, Senate lawmakers introduce federal domestic partner benefits bill

Saturday, November 19, 2011

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Friday reintroduced the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, and said that approving the bill would put the federal government on par with Fortune 500 corporations that already extend full benefits to same-sex partners of gay and lesbian employees.

The companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives was introduced by Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.).

Under the bill, a federal employee and same-sex domestic partner, who are not related by blood and are living together in a committed intimate relationship, would be eligible to participate in federal retirement, life insurance, health, workers’ compensation, and Family and Medical Leave benefits to the same extent as married employees and their spouses.

“This legislation is the next step to achieving equity for the gay community,” Lieberman said, in a statement.

“We repealed the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in the military because we want the best men and women America has to offer to defend our country. The same is true for federal employees: we want to attract the best men and women possible to serve in federal government. One way to do that is by offering competitive benefits to the family members of gay federal employees. This legislation makes good economic sense. It is sound policy. And it is the right thing to do.”

Lieberman, Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Collins, the ranking member, previously introduced the legislation in the past two Congresses. The Committee held two hearings on the bill and approved the measure in 2009.

In the U.S. House, Baldwin said “the federal government must set an example as an equal opportunity employer.”

“If we are to treat all federal employees fairly and recruit the best and the brightest to serve in government, we need this legislation,” she said.

According to a 2009 UCLA Williams Institute report, more that 30,000 federal workers live in committed relationships with same-sex domestic partners who are not federal employees.

Nearly 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies now offer health benefits to employees’ domestic partners, up from just 25 percent in 2000.

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10 more reader comments:

  1. Way past due.

    Posted on Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 3:37pm
  2. Sometimes I have to stop thinking about all of the stupid things we do, because it just becomes so overwhelming and I want to get on the first shuttle off of earth.
    Why must common sense be so difficult for everyone? Why are we still trying to cover our citizens most basic needs and rights? Goodness gracious.

    Posted on Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 3:54pm
  3. next step…survivor social security benefits…then we will be equal!

    Posted on Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 3:56pm
  4. Maryll, no we won’t. We need full marriage recognition under the eyes of the law.

    Posted on Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 5:02pm
  5. If marriage equality were a reality, this would be a moot point. This is like giving the LGBT community a hamburger while everyone else gets a steak. I like hamburgers, but why can’t I have a steak?

    Posted on Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 5:14pm
  6. This is bullshit! This is the federal government saying that you can’t F-ing get marriage equality, but you can get some equality, but only if you work for the federal government? There needs to be marriage equality, regardless of who you work for!

    Posted on Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 5:22pm
  7. Why must common sense be so difficult for everyone? The homophobes can’t use something they don’t have: Common Sense! Homophobia is an IRRATIONAL fear and gate of anything and anyone related to same-gender attractions. Being irrational means that no one can talk rationally with homophobes. They’ll never get it. This is why it’s so very important that we “come out” to everyone. There are many Americans who just don’t know any better. These are the ones with whom we can reason. They need to clearly see what homophobic irrationality does to prevent Gay Americans from being fully equal citizens with non-Gay Americans.

    Posted on Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 7:07pm
  8. It is a step…the federal government has to acknowledge domestic partnership before anything can change! This state to state stuff doesn’t cut it. Once federal employees have the rights then it will expand outward. And honestly being prior service … Those who served under dadt deserve to have the benefits that have been denied them so long! Yes everyone deserves them … But I dont see the world changing it’s mind overnight.

    Posted on Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 9:11pm
  9. It is a step, but what about trans people. After all,”Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. Why bother? Because at least 116 trans people were murdered this year, just for being themselves”. From TG World News

    Posted on Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 5:18am
  10. its a step in the right direction, once we get some rights it will be harder and harder to deny us full rights. if the federal government gives us rights that we should have then the states will have to follow suit. we must not stop till we have full rights. if we have a “its all or nothing attitude” then we wont progress very fast.

    Posted on Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 2:35pm