WASHINGTON –Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., and Reps. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Wednesday introduced legislation to give the domestic partners of federal employees the same benefits – and require of them the same obligations – as the spouses of federal employees.

“This bill would bring equality to the domestic partners of federal employees,” Lieberman said. “It will also help the government attract, recruit, and retain the best and the brightest, at a time when a large percentage of federal employees are preparing to retire and the government will be required to hire a new generation of public servants. We need to be able to compete with the private sector on equal footing for new talent, and this legislation will help us achieve that goal.”

Collins said: “The federal government needs to have benefits comparable to the Fortune 500 companies in order to help attract and retain the most qualified and capable employees, and this legislation would advance that goal. The federal government faces a huge workforce challenge, both because of competition from private employers and the wave of retirements expected within the next decade. Adapting federal benefits policy to reflect the common practice among Fortune 500 companies would help meet these challenges.”

Baldwin, co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, said: “Extending benefits to the domestic partners of federal employees is more than a matter of fairness. As a majority of Fortune 500 companies have already demonstrated, equality and diversity in the workplace boost productivity and help attract and keep the most qualified employees.”

Ros-Lehtinen said: “This is a country that prides itself on its equality and fairness to all so it is correct to bring those ideals into the regulations governing benefits for domestic partners of federal employees. It is the right thing to do and it will help us bring federal employment benefits squarely into the 21st century.”

The Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009 is identical to legislation introduced last Congress by Senator Lieberman, former Senator Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and 20 other co-sponsors in the Senate, along with Rep. Baldwin and 90 cosponsors in the House.

Under the legislation, same-sex domestic partners of federal employees living together in a committed relationship would be eligible for health benefits, long-term care, Family and Medical Leave, and federal retirement benefits, among others. The domestic partners of federal employees would also be subject to the same responsibilities that apply to the spouses of federal employees, such as anti-nepotism rules and financial disclosure requirements.

According to UCLA’s Williams Institute, over 30,000 federal workers live in committed relationships with same-sex domestic partners who are not federal employees.

More than half of all Fortune 500 companies and over 10,000 other private sector companies provide benefits to domestic partners. Among them are General Electric, IBM, Eastman Kodak, Dow Chemical, the Chubb Corporation, Lockheed Martin, and Duke Energy. In addition, the governments of 13 states, 145 local jurisdictions, and over 300 colleges and universities provide such benefits.

Based on the experience of private companies and state and local governments, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees would increase the cost of those programs by less than 1/2 of one percent. The Office of Personnel Management says the cost of health benefits for domestic partners over 10 years would be $670 million.

“The Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act makes good economic sense. It is sound policy. And it is the right thing to do,” Lieberman said.