Wednesday, September 27, 2006

NEWS: Bill proposed to extend same-sex partner benefits of federal employees.

DISTRICT OF COMUMBIA -- Legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate Wednesday that would extend family benefits to the same-sex partners of gay and lesbian employees of the federal state.

The measure is sponsored by U.S. Senators Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) and Gordon Smith (R-Oregon). Among the co-sponsors are U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer of New York, Barbara Boxer of California, and Ted Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts.

The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act would provide benefits to federal employees' same-sex partners on the same basis as spousal benefits - including participation in retirement programs, compensation for work injuries and life and health insurance. In addition, the bill would subject federal employees with domestic partners to the same obligations as federally recognized married couples.

"This bill is very affordable but more importantly, it is the right thing to do. Many leading employers, including my home state of Connecticut, provide benefits to domestic partners," said Lieberman. "It's time for the federal government to catch up as extending benefits to domestic partners is fair and will help federal agencies compete for the most qualified personnel."

"Federal workers should be able to extend their benefits to loved ones," said Smith. "It's a matter of fairness and I think the government should be leading the way rather than following. I believe we need to rid the workplace of discrimination, not just in hiring decisions, but also in the rights and privileges afforded employees."

The House version of the bill was introduced in July, 2005 and sponsored by Rep. Barney Frank (D. Massachusetts).

As of 2006, more than one half of the Fortune 500 companies provide health benefits for their employees' domestic partners.

How far the legislation will advance is unclear. Congress is scheduled to adjourn later this week and most Republicans say they will oppose the measure.


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