WASHINGTON — Legislation that would extend employee benefit programs to cover same-sex domestic partners of federal civilian employees on the same basis as spousal benefits was introduced Thursday in the U.S. House and Senate.
The bills would provide the same-sex domestic partners of federal employees access to all employee benefits currently available to spouses of federal employees, no matter what state they live in or whether or not they have access to legal marriage in their home state.
The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2013 (DPBO) — introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) — would place the federal government on equal footing with similar benefits offered by a majority of Fortune 500 companies.
The companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.).
“We’ve made great progress for committed, same-sex couples in America but we still have work to do to move freedom and fairness forward,” said Baldwin.
“This bill helps provide federal employees and their domestic partners equal access and opportunity to the benefits that businesses across our country are already providing,” she said.
Almost 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies now offer health benefits to employees’ domestic partners, up from just 25 percent in 2000. Overall, more than 8,000 private-sector companies make such benefits available to employees’ domestic partners, as do the governments of 18 states and at least 150 cities and towns.
Under DPBO, a federal employee and their same-sex domestic partner 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. Such employees and their domestic partners would likewise assume the same obligations as those that apply to married employees and their spouses, such as anti-nepotism rules and financial disclosure requirements.
This action follows Wednesday’s announcement by U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez that established new guidelines requiring that married, same-sex couples be eligible for employer benefits equal to married, heterosexual couples, even if they live in a state that doesn’t recognize their marriage.