Federal Domestic Partner Benefit Legislation Introduced

June 16, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Legislation has been introduced in both the United States House of Representatives and Senate offering domestic partners of federal employees the same protections and benefits offered to spouses of federal workers.

>Under the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners of federal employees would be eligible to receive all “benefits available and obligations imposed upon a spouse of an employee.”   Those benefits include life insurance, health insurance, retirement pay, and compensation for workplace injuries, according to Washington-based legal publisher BNA.

>The provisions of the bill would require domestic partners to file an affidavit with the Office of Personnel Management stating that they meet the necessary criteria in order to become eligible.   Separate versions have been introduced in the House by Representative Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) as HR 2426 and in the Senate by Senator Mark Dayton (D-Minnesota) as S 1252.

>Frank introduced similar legislation in the last session of Congress as HR 638, which at the end of 2002 had 90 cosponsors. A similar bill from Dayton in the last Congress, S 2874, ended the year with six cosponsors.   By comparison, this year’s versions have 50 cosponsors in the House and four cosponsors in the Senate:   Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut), John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York), and Patty Murray (D-Washington).

“It’s time for the federal government to follow the lead of 11 state governments, over 150 local governments, and more than five thousand private-sector employers and recognize that providing benefits to domestic partners is not just the fair thing to do, it’s good business,” Frank said.   Among those states currently offering a domestic partner benefit:

  • California (same-sex only)
  • Connecticut (same-sex only)
  • Iowa (same and opposite sex)
  • Maine (same and opposite sex)
  • Minnesota (same-sex only)
  • New Mexico (same-sex only)
  • New York (same and opposite sex)
  • Oregon (same and opposite sex)
  • Rhode Island (same and opposite sex)
  • Vermont (same and opposite sex)
  • Washington (same-sex only)

“At a time when there is a substantial salary gap between government and private-sector employees with similar jobs, it simply makes sense to add a low-cost benefit to help attract more qualified people to the federal government, and make it easier to retain them once they start work,” Frank said.