Domestic partner benefits bill clears panel
By SEUNG MIN KIM | 5/16/12 1:03 PM EDT
A week after President Barack Obama publicly proclaimed his support for same-sex marriage, a Senate panel easily passed a measure that would extend benefits to gay and lesbian partners of federal workers.
On a voice vote, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee approved the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act. The bill is intended to give the same benefits to same-sex partners that spouses of straight federal workers currently receive.
Among the benefits that would be provided to same-sex partners are health care benefits, long-term care, family and medical leave, and retirement benefits, according to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the bill’s chief sponsor who has repeatedly introduced the measure in previous Congresses.
The legislation has 23 co-sponsors – all Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents except for Maine Sen. Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate panel. Collins said during Wednesday’s hearing that the bill was one way to make the federal government more attractive compared to the private sector.
“It’s just a matter of making the federal government’s benefits structure comparable of those of large employers,” she said.
According to Lieberman’s office, one of three employers offers benefits to their workers’ domestic partners, as well as 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies and half of employers with more than 5,000 employees. Furthermore, 24 states and hundreds of local jurisdictions do as well, Lieberman’s office said.