Congresswomen Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) today introduced the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2011. The bill would put the federal government on par with a majority of Fortune 500 companies by extending employee benefit programs to cover the domestic partners of federal employees to the same extent as those benefits cover spouses of federal employees. Similar legislation in the Senate was introduced today by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME).
"The federal government must set an example as an equal opportunity employer," said Congresswoman Baldwin. "If we are to treat all federal employees fairly and recruit the best and the brightest to serve in government, we need this legislation," she said.
"I am pleased to co-sponsor this legislation because we are a nation that prides itself on treating everyone as equals and this bill assures that we bring those same ideals to the regulations that guide federal benefits for domestic partners of federal employees," said Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen. "We have taken steps to gain equal rights for all but much remains to be done. Passage of this legislation will be one step in the right direction. I am pleased that the Senate has also introduced a similar bill," she said.
Nearly 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies now offer health benefits to employees' domestic partners, up from just 25 percent in 2000. More than 8,000 private-sector companies make such benefits available to employees' domestic partners, as do the governments of 18 states and at least 150 cities and towns from Juneau, Alaska to Atlanta, Georgia, and from Portland, Maine to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Under the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2011, a federal employee and same-sex domestic partner, who are not related by blood and are living together in a committed intimate relationship, would be eligible to participate in federal retirement, life insurance, health, workers' compensation, and Family and Medical Leave benefits to the same extent as married employees and their spouses. Such employees and their domestic partners would likewise assume the same obligations as those that apply to married employees and their spouses, such as anti-nepotism rules and financial disclosure requirements.
A broad coalition of organizations and federal employee groups supports this legislation: 9to5, Natl Assn of Working Women, A Better Balance: The Work & Family Legal Center, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Family Equality Council, Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA), Human Rights Campaign, Immigration Equality Action Fund, The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), AFL-CIO, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Log Cabin Republicans, National Coalition for LGBT Health, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), and People for the American Way.