Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), joined by 52 other House members, has introduced legislation that would allow unmarried employees of the federal government to apply for health insurance, retirement and other benefits for their domestic partners.
"The time has come for the federal government to recognize the changing workforce and value its employees," Frank said in a statement. "Corporate America is way out in front of the government because they know it is good business."
The congressman, who is gay, called it "an issue of fairness" to give non-married government workers the same rights as their married colleagues.
Frank said more than 8,000 employers across the nation provide domestic partner benefits. In addition, he estimated that more than 200 of the Fortune 500 companies and 150 state and local governments offer benefits to same-sex partners.
The House bill defines a domestic partner as an adult living with, but not married to, another adult "in a committed, intimate relationship." The bill would entitle domestic partners "to benefits available to and obligations imposed upon a spouse of an employee."
In defining benefits, the bill would make available health insurance, life insurance, pensions and worker's compensation to domestic partners of the same and opposite sex.
Protecting Gay Employees
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and 10 co-sponsors have introduced a bill that would reaffirm that federal employees are protected from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation.
The bill was prompted by a controversy over whether Scott J. Bloch, head of the Office of the Special Counsel, has failed to enforce a 30-year policy against such bias in the federal workplace. Bloch told a Senate panel in May that he lacks the legal authority to enforce the Bush administration's ban on discrimination against an employee because the person is gay.
Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), Mark Foley (R-Fla.), Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Barney Frank and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) are among the sponsors.
"We should be doing our utmost to ensure that all are protected against discrimination," Waxman said in a statement.
Labor Rules Delayed
The Department of Homeland Security will delay the start of a new labor-management relations system by two weeks as requested by a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer asked the government if she could have until Aug. 15 to rule on a lawsuit filed by the National Treasury Employees Union that seeks to temporarily block the new rules. The workplace rules were scheduled to take effect Aug. 1, but Collyer said a two-week delay would give her time to rule on the merits of the challenge.
"DHS has agreed to this delay," spokesman Larry Orluskie said. "The department continues to look forward to the implementation of these regulatory provisions, as they are critically important to DHS's mission."
Colleen M. Kelley, NTEU president, welcomed the delay. The union contends that the department's plan would use a regulatory process to undercut union rights to bargain on behalf of customs, immigration and Border Patrol employees.
The Defense Department has determined that 358 senior executives will receive a retroactive pay increase, costing $63,236.
Congress ordered the adjustment in 2005 salaries after learning that some political appointees in the executive ranks at the Pentagon received 2.5 percent pay raises while most career executives with similar job ratings of "fully successful" received 2 percent raises.
The raises, announced in January, were the first under a new compensation system for the Senior Executive Service. It calls for raises to be determined according to a rigorous job performance rating system operated by each agency. Federal executives are no longer guaranteed annual raises under the system.