Lieberman, Smith Fight for Domestic Partners

Senators Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn. and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., sought co-sponsors Monday for legislation they plan to introduce extending domestic partner benefits to federal employees.

In a letter to their colleagues, the two Senators noted that a majority of Fortune 500 companies provide the same benefit programs to domestic partners of employees as they do to spouses of employees.

“Overall, more than 8000 private-sector companies make such benefits available to employees’ domestic partners, as do several hundred state and local governments and colleges and universities,” the Senators said in their letter.

Lieberman said, “This bill is very affordable, it is fair, and it is right. My home state of Connecticut provides benefits to domestic partners, and I am proud to be part of this effort to extend benefits to domestic partners of federal employees. While this bill has a very modest cost to the government, it will have a significant impact on federal employees living in domestic partnerships and will assist our government in competing for the most qualified personnel”

Smith added: “Federal employees should be able to extend their benefits to loved ones,” Smith said. “It’s a matter of fairness and I think the government should be leading the way rather than following.”

Based on the experience of private companies and state and local governments, CBO has estimated that offering benefits for same-sex domestic partners of federal employees should only increase the cost of those programs by less than one half of one percent.

Surveys show that private corporations provide domestic partner benefits in part to recruit and retain employees. Many top American corporations provide such benefits, including GE, Chevron, Boeing, Texas Instruments, Hospital Corporation of America, Lockheed Martin, Duke Energy Corp., and BellSouth.

In addition, the governments of 13 states, including Connecticut and Oregon, and 139 cities and towns, from Stamford, Conn., to Atlanta, Ga., and from Albuquerque, N.M.., to Eugene, Ore. provide benefits to domestic partners of employees.

In surveys, non-federal employers report that the reasons they cover employees’ domestic partners are to boost recruitment and retention of employees, as well as, of course, to be fair. The Federal Government is in competition with these same companies and state and local governments for qualified personnel, yet federal agencies cannot match the domestic-partner benefits offered by major non-Federal employers.

Under the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act, expected to be introduced in early September, a federal employee and same-sex domestic partner unrelated by blood and living together in a committed intimate relationship would be eligible to participate in federal retirement benefits, life insurance, health benefits, workers’ compensation, and Family and Medical Leave. Such employees and their domestic partners would also assume the same obligations that apply to married employees and their spouses, such as anti-nepotism rules and financial disclosure requirements.

The letter is linked below.