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Senate panel approves benefits for same-sex partners

May. 16, 2012 - 01:41PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments

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

S 1910, the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, was passed by a voice vote and will now go to the full Senate. It would allow feds to claim family and medical leave to care for their same-sex domestic partners, and would make their partners eligible for group life insurance and long-term care insurance benefits. In addition, after a gay or lesbian retiree dies, his or her surviving partners could receive federal retirement benefits. The bill would not make those benefits available to opposite-sex domestic partners.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who sponsored the bill, said extending those benefits is fair and necessary to keep the government competitive with most Fortune 500 companies, who already offer those benefits.

“I believe this legislation is on the right side of history,” Lieberman said. “It is simply an affirmation of something we all believe in — equal pay for equal work, which also means equal benefits. Correcting this situation … not only fixes a fundamental unfairness in the current system, it will also help the federal government recruit and retain talented employees who might otherwise reject federal service because they can get fairer benefits packages from other employers.”

The Congressional Budget Office said extending these benefits would cost nearly $700 million over 10 years.

The bill would also allow the Office of Personnel Management to recover money paid by the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program for medical expenses when the participant has also received reimbursement from a third party for the same medical expenses. Lieberman said that provision would more than cover the cost of extending benefits to same-sex couples.

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