Domestic Partner Benefits Bill Gains Momentum in Senate
Friday, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs held a hearing on the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (S. 1102). Introduced this past May, the legislation would provide same-sex domestic partners of federal employees access to the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts. Some of these important benefits include health insurance, life insurance, survivor benefits, and dental/vision benefits.
Carrying the support of the Obama Administration and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in both the House and Senate, the bill is expected to further advance an agenda of fairness and equality throughout the federal workforce and greatly assist the federal government in recruiting and retaining America’s best and brightest—issues that were highlighted in the hearing by Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and OPM Director John Berry.
In May of this year, NFFE applauded an executive memorandum issued by President Obama that extended some benefits to domestic partners of federal employees. However, the Administration was limited in what could be done without a change in law. NFFE has endorsed the legislation and has urged lawmakers in both the House and Senate to support the bill. NFFE is pushing for this legislation so that all federal employees are given equal treatment under the law.
“This is a fairness issue,” said NFFE Legislative Director Randy Erwin after the hearing. “A federal worker should not be denied the same benefits as everyone else simply because his or her spouse happens to be of the same sex.”
With an estimated price tag of $56 million throughout the federal government in 2010 — a drop in the bucket compared to the billions of dollars the federal government spends to recruit and retain a quality workforce — this legislation provides a lot of bang for the buck.
“Offering domestic partner benefits is a smart move for the federal government,” Erwin explained. “It is cheap and easy to do, and it will make a big difference in the recruitment and retention of quality employees.”
Passage of this legislation would allow an estimated 30,000 federal employees who are in committed relationships with same-sex partners access to these crucial benefits, which would dramatically enhance the federal government’s capacity to compete with the private sector in attracting and retaining the most talented and devoted of workers. Almost 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies currently provide benefits to same-sex domestic partners of their employees.