House Committee Approves Fed Employee Same-Sex Partner Benefits

November 20, 2009 ( - After a heated debate over gay rights and extending benefits in an economic downturn, the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday passed 23 to 12 legislation that would provide health care and other employment benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of federal employees, reports.

The 2009 Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (H.R. 2517) would provide all of the employment benefits made available to the spouses of heterosexual federal employees, including health insurance, retirement, disability, and other benefits (see Bill Would Extend Other Benefits to Fed Employees’ Same-sex Partners ). The provisions apply to partners of current employees, former employees, and retirees.

The committee adopted amendments offered by Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Mike Quigley (D-Illinois) establishing reporting requirements for the legislation. Chaffetz’s amendment would require the Government Accountability Office to report two years after the bill’s implementation on how it has affected federal employees’ health care premiums, while Quigley’s amendment requires similar reports on the legislation’s effect on federal recruiting and retention.

According to, Republican committee members argued that the measure is an inappropriate extension of benefits to a small subset of federal employees at a time when unemployment is rising. They also said such a move would threaten the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and could open the door to fraud by people of the same sex who simply wanted access to benefits.

Democrats countered that extending access to health and survivor benefits to the same-sex partners of federal workers in exchange for an agreement that those employees would abide by rules governing nepotism and financial disclosure for their partners, was a matter of equality and of establishing the federal government as an inclusive, competitive employer, the news report said.