WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, Friday introduced legislation to provide benefits for and require obligations from the domestic partners of federal employees.
“This legislation is the next step to achieving equity for the gay community,” Lieberman said. “We repealed the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in the military because we want the best men and women America has to offer to defend our country. The same is true for federal employees: we want to attract the best men and women possible to serve in federal government. One way to do that is by offering competitive benefits to the family members of gay federal employees. This legislation makes good economic sense. It is sound policy. And it is the right thing to do.”
Collins said: “This change is both fair policy and good business practice. The federal government must compete with the private sector when it comes to attracting the most qualified, skilled, and dedicated employees. Today, health, medical, and other benefits are a major component of any competitive employment package. Indeed, private sector employers are increasingly offering these kinds of benefits as standard fare. Among Fortune 500 companies, for example, domestic partner benefits are commonplace. According to the Office of Personnel Management, nearly 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies, including some of our top federal contractors, extend employment benefits to domestic partners.”
Under the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2011, 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. Federal employees and their domestic partners would also be subject to the same responsibilities that apply to married federal employees and their spouses, such as anti-nepotism rules and financial disclosure requirements.
According to a 2009 UCLA Williams Institute report, over 30,000 federal workers live in committed relationships with same-sex domestic partners who are not federal employees.
Lieberman and Collins have introduced the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act in the past two Congresses. The Committee held two hearings on the bill and approved the measure in 2009.
Almost 60 percent of all Fortune 500 companies, one out of three employers – and 50 percent of employers with 5,000 or more workers – provide benefits to domestic partners of their employees. Twenty states and several hundred local jurisdictions extend benefits to their employees with same-sex domestic partners.
Based on the experience of private companies and state and local governments, the Congressional Budget Office estimated last year that the total cost of benefits would average about $70 million per year through 2020. Considered as a share of the federal government’s total budget for federal employees, this estimated cost would amount to only about two hundredths of a percent (0.0002).