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Senate panel to vote on extending benefits to same-sex partners

May. 15, 2012 - 09:09AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will vote Wednesday on a bill to extend health and other benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of gay and lesbian federal employees.

S 1910, the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, would also allow feds to claim family and medical leave to care for same-sex partners. In addition, after a gay or lesbian retiree dies, his or her surviving partner could receive federal retirement benefits. The bill would not make those benefits available to opposite-sex domestic partners.

Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, who are the chairman and ranking Republican on the committee, are the bill’s sponsors. The bill has 21 other co-sponsors, but Collins is the only Republican who has signed on.

“This legislation is about equality for the gay community, pure and simple,” Lieberman said in a March news release. “We want to attract the best people to serve in the federal government, and one way to do that is by offering their families the same benefits as their heterosexual colleagues, as businesses across the country are already doing.”

Collins said in March that same-sex benefits are increasingly common among private-sector employers.

“This change is both fair policy and good business practice,” Collins said.

The Obama administration supports extending more benefits to gay and lesbian federal employees’ partners, but said it has been prevented from doing so by the Defense of Marriage Act.

But even if S 1910 passes the Senate, it is likely to run into trouble in the Republican-controlled House, which opposes expanding federal employees’ benefits.

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