Domestic Partnership Benefits Bill Advances in House


The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Wednesday passed the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, H.R. 2517, a bill that would extend spousal benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

Under the legislation, same-sex domestic partners living together in committed relationships would be eligible for health coverage, long-term care, Family and Medical Leave, and federal retirement benefits, among others. By extension, partners 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.

Under current law, domestic partners of federal employees are not entitled to any of the aforementioned benefits. Since benefits comprise a great deal of federal employee compensation, this disparity effectively denies federal employees with domestic partners equal pay for equal work.

“Extending these benefits to domestic partners of federal workers is fundamentally an issue of equality,” said NFFE National President William R. Dougan in a letter to committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-MD). “Gay and lesbian employees work just as long and just as hard as their heterosexual counterparts and they deserve to be compensated as such.”

The bill, approved by the full committee with a 23-12 vote, will now move on to be considered by the full House of Representatives. A companion bill, S. 1102, is currently under review by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

“This legislation has a very good chance of being enacted,” said NFFE Legislative Director Randy Erwin, noting the widespread support of the bill throughout Washington. “The issue has the strong support of the Obama Administration and many in Congress. In fact, OPM Director John Berry has taken a personal interest in this bill and is championing the Administration’s push for the legislation.”

“All of the pieces are there, so the prospects are good for the legislation to pass,” Erwin said.