Lieberman, Smith Propose Benefits for Domestic Partners

Senators Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn. and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., introduced legislation Wednesday to extend domestic partner benefits to federal employees.

Under the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act, 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, long term care insurance, the Family and Medical Leave program, as well as dental and vision 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.

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.

Senator Lieberman said, “This bill is very affordable but more importantly, it is the right thing to do. Many leading employers, including my home state of Connecticut provide benefits to domestic partners. It’s time for the federal government to catch up as extending benefits to domestic partners is fair and will help federal agencies compete for the most qualified personnel.”

Senator Smith added: “Federal workers should be able to extend their benefits to loved ones. It’s a matter of fairness and I think the government should be leading the way rather than following. I believe we need to rid the workplace of discrimination, not just in hiring decisions, but also in the rights and privileges afforded employees.”

More than 8000 private-sector companies make benefits available to employees’ domestic partners, as do several hundred state and local governments and colleges and universities. Among top corporations that provide such benefits are General Electric, 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 provide benefits to domestic partners of employees.

In surveys, employers report that they cover domestic partners to boost recruitment and retention of employees, as well as to be fair. Senators Lieberman and Smith pointed out that 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.