A Senate committee approved legislation Wednesday allowing same-sex partners of federal employees to receive employment benefits.
The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act with a bipartisan voice vote. It must be approved by the full Senate and the House before enactment.
Although the vote was held just days after President Obama came out
in favor of gay marriage, the timing of the vote was a coincidence, said Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the panel
The legislation covers only same-sex domestic partners who are not married. Married same-sex couples and unmarried opposite sex domestic partners are not included.
The bill “has nothing to do with same-sex marriage,” said Lieberman, who introduced the measure. What it “does is right an existing injustice that penalizes one class of federal employees by limiting their benefits versus what their fellow federal workers receive.”
Those benefits include health, long-term care and life insurance; retirement, disability, workers’ comp and death benefits; and family medical and emergency leave.
“We are not blazing new trails here,” Lieberman added. “Today, almost 10,000 private-sector companies of all sizes provide benefits to domestic partners and that includes 60 percent of all Fortune 500 companies. . .The same is true for the governments of 24 states – including my home state of Connecticut – and about 154 local jurisdictions, and 300 colleges and universities.”
The bill’s cosponsor, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the committee, said the list of companies providing the benefits includes “some of our top federal contractors.”
“This change is both fair policy and good business practice,” she added. “The federal government must compete with the private sector when it comes to attracting the most qualified, skilled and dedicated employees.”