The two senators who led the fight to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy are once again trying to extend full domestic benefits to the partners of gay federal employees.
As they have during the last two congressional sessions, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Friday reintroduced their Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, noting that approving the bill would put the federal government on par with Fortune 500 corporations that already extend full benefits to the same-sex partners of gay employees.
The bill would make the same-sex partners of federal employees eligible for federal health benefits, long-term care, Family and Medical Leave and federal retirement benefits. Gay federal employees and their partners would be subject to the same standards that apply to married federal workers, including anti-nepotism rules and financial disclosure requirements, according to Lieberman and Collins’s offices.
Following orders issued by President Obama in 2009, domestic partners of federal employees are already eligible under the federal government’s long term care program, as long as they are in a long-term committed relationship. Same-sex partners of State Department employees also are eligible for relocation-related benefits and some employee assistance programs.
Partners also could be eligible for retirement survivor benefits under a form of annuity called the “insurable interest” annuity, again as long as they meet certain qualifications. They also qualify as family members for certain sick leave use related to conditions of family members.
But Lieberman and Collins hope to move the federal government beyond changes enacted so far without the weight of law.
“We want to attract the best men and women possible to serve in federal government,” Lieberman said in a statement. “One way to do that is by offering competitive benefits to the family members of gay federal employees.”
Collins agreed, saying, “The federal government must compete with the private sector when it comes to attracting the most qualified, skilled, and dedicated employees. Today, health, medical, and other benefits are a major component of any competitive employment package.”
Lieberman and Collins introduced similar bills during the two previous congresses and their committee, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, held two hearings on the bill in 2009 before approving it.
Of course the federal government is barred from recognizing same-sex marriages under the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that has so far barred the Pentagon from extending full domestic benefits to the same-sex partners of gay and lesbian service members. Neither Lieberman or Collins’s offices could immediately say Friday how the bill would address the law’s restrictions.
Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost
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