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House, Senate lawmakers introduce federal domestic partner benefits bill

Saturday, November 19, 2011
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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“We repealed the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in the military because we want the best men and women America has to offer to defend our country.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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