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Federal Eye
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 05/16/2012

Senate panel to vote on extending benefits to same-sex partners of LGBT federal workers

An earlier version of this blog incorrectly said that the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which was approved by the Security and Government Affairs Committee, would not apply to married same-sex couples. It generally would apply to them. This version has been updated.

A Senate committee plans to vote Wednesday on legislation that would give same-sex partners of federal workers some key benefits, a week after President Obama endorsed marriage for same-sex couples.

The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (S. 1910) is scheduled to go before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for a vote.

It would allow same-sex domestic partners of federal workers to get retirement, health, transportation and other benefits. The bill is co-sponsored by Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine) and 21 Senate Democrats.

Lieberman has introduced the bill for several years running but it has not reached the Senate floor.

It faces stiff opposition in the Republican-controlled House, where many members oppose any boost to federal employee benefits and believe the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits benefits for same-sex couples. The law, known as DOMA, prevents the federal government from recognizing marriages other than those between a man and woman.

The bill up Wednesday would, among other provisions, allow federal workers to claim family and medical leave to care for same-sex partners. After a gay retiree dies, his or her surviving partner would receive federal retirement benefits. These benefits would not be available to opposite-sex partners who are not married.

The bill would place the government in line with almost 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies, including top federal contractors, and 50 percent of employers with 5,000 or more workers, 24 states and several hundred local jurisdictions that offer benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of their employees, according to Lieberman’s office.

The Obama administration has, by executive order, extended other benefits to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender federal workers.

Also on the committee’s agenda for Wednesday is legislation to update the Hatch Act, the federal law governing partisan activity by federal employees.

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By  |  06:00 AM ET, 05/16/2012

 
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