WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Senator Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and 19 other co-sponsors introduced legislation Wednesday to extend domestic partner benefits to federal employees.
More than half of Fortune 500 companies and almost 10,000 other companies, provide benefits to domestic partners. So do hundreds of state and local governments – including Connecticut and Oregon – and scores of colleges and universities.
“It’s time for the federal government to catch up to the private sector, not just to set an example but so that it can compete for the most qualified employees and ensure that all of our public servants receive fair and equitable treatment,” said Lieberman. “It makes good economic and policy sense. And it is the right thing to do.”
“The federal government should be leading the way rather than following when it comes to providing benefits,” Senator Smith said. “Rights and benefits must be afforded to all employees equally. This bill corrects the current inequity.”
Under the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act of 2007, a federal employee and same-sex domestic partner would be eligible to participate in federal health benefits, the Family and Medical Leave program, long term care, insurance, and retirement benefits. 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.
Lieberman and Smith introduced similar legislation last Congress. Based on the experience of private companies and state and local governments, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that offering benefits for same-sex domestic partners of federal employees would increase the cost of those programs by less than one half of one percent. Among the Fortune 500 companies offering benefits to domestic partners are General Electric, Chevron, Boeing, Texas Instruments, Hospital Corporation of America, Lockheed Martin, Duke Energy Corp., Raytheon, and AT&T.
In surveys, employers report that they cover domestic partners to boost recruitment and retention of quality employees, as well as to be fair. Senators Lieberman and Smith said the federal government cannot adequately compete with the private sector and state and local governments for qualified personnel if it doesn’t provide domestic-partner benefits.