WASHINGTON — A U.S. Senate panel on Wednesday approved legislation that would allow same-sex partners of federal employees to receive employment benefits.
The bill — Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (DPBO) — was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on a voice vote.
The bill would provide benefits for same-sex domestic partners of federal civilian employees on the same basis as spousal benefits, including participation in retirement programs, life and health insurance benefits, and family and medical leave.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the bill’s chief sponsor, said the bill “has nothing to do with same-sex marriage,” and called the timing of the hearing — exactly one week after President Obama’s announcement supporting marriage equality — coincidental.
What it “does is right an existing injustice that penalizes one class of federal employees by limiting their benefits versus what their fellow federal workers receive,” said Lieberman, who opposes legalizing same-sex marriage.
The legislation has 23 co-sponsors – all Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents except for Maine Sen. Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate panel, according to Politico.
Like Lieberman, Collins said during Wednesday’s hearing that the bill was one way to make the federal government more attractive compared to the private sector.
“This change is both fair policy and good business practice. The federal government must compete with the private sector when it comes to attracting the most qualified, skilled, and dedicated employees,” Collins said, in a statement.
The bill must be approved by the full Senate and the House before enactment.