Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act moves towards approval

by Hannah Clay Wareham
Thursday Dec 17, 2009

The Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee Dec. 16 approved the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which would allow federal employees to give their same-sex partners health insurance, life insurance, government pensions, and other employment related benefits and obligations that are available to heterosexual married couples.

The bill was originally introduced in the House by openly lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and in the Senate by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) in 2007. After they died in 2008, the bills were reintroduced in 2009. Openly gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) told the Washington Blade in May that he believed supporters of the act "have a shot" at getting it passed. In June, President Obama voiced his support for the bill, calling it "crucial legislation that will guarantee these rights for all federal employees."

"We are extremely pleased by the Senate committee's vote on this important legislation. It is long past time for the federal government -- the country's largest civilian employer -- to provide benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. In addition to being fundamentally fair, extending these benefits is a sound business decision because it will help the federal government recruit and retain the best people," Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), said. The NGLTF supplied testimony in support of the bill earlier this year.

"Businesses already understand this. A majority of Fortune 500 companies offer their employees domestic partner benefits, as do hundreds of colleges, universities, local governments and many states. This bill will simply bring the federal government up to the standard already supported by businesses and people across the country."

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