WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, Thursday announced the support of 21 new cosponsors for the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act.  The announcement came days after a coalition of 35 organizations endorsed the legislation.

“This legislation is about equality for the gay community, pure and simple,” Lieberman said.  “I am pleased that so many of my colleagues are showing their support, as are a growing number of civil rights groups, labor groups and businesses.  We want to attract the best people to serve in the federal government and one way to do that is by offering their families the same benefits as their heterosexual colleagues, as businesses across the country are already doing.”

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.”

The new cosponsors are Senators Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Robert Casey, D-Pa., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Al Franken, D-Minn., Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, John Kerry, D-Mass., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Frank Lauthenberg, D-N.J., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Carl Levin, D-Mich., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Bernie Sanders I-Vt., Jeanne Shaheen D-N.H., Sheldon Whitehouse D-R.I., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

Under the bill, 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.  Lieberman has introduced the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act in the past four Congresses, the last two with Collins. 

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-four states and several hundred local jurisdictions extend benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of their employees.