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Same-Sex Benefits Bill Clears First Hurdle

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 11:52 a.m. ET

A bill granting full health-care benefits to domestic partners of gay and lesbian federal employees cleared its first legislative hurdle today, as a House subcommittee approved the measure along a party-line vote.

The House subcommittee on federal workforce issues approved the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act by a 5 to 3 vote. It extends several benefits to gay partners, including access to health care coverage, retirement and disability plans, and life and long-term care insurance.

The measure earned an endorsement from President Obama in June when he extended some federal benefits to same-sex partners of federal workers. The president's memo did not give access to health care or retirement benefits, something Obama said he could not do without the legislation.

"Extending equal benefits to the same-sex partners of Federal employees is the right thing to do," Obama said at the time, noting that several top employers already offer benefits to same-sex partners.

"Those companies recognize that offering partner benefits helps them compete for and retain the brightest and most talented employees. The federal government is at a disadvantage on that score right now, and change is long overdue."

In a statement, the bill's sponsor Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) echoed the president's comments, saying she was "delighted" by the subcommittee's move and that the bill should be passed to ensure the federal government's competitive edge.

Democratic subcommittee members argued today that the bill would put the federal government on par with private-sector employers that have already extended full benefits to the partners of gay employees. Republicans introduced amendments that would have removed references to "same sex" partners, arguing the bill discriminates against the domestic partners of non-married heterosexual federal employees.

The bill must next be approved by the full House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and only then would be considered by the full House.

By Ed O'Keefe  | July 30, 2009; 10:27 AM ET
Categories:  Congress, Workplace Issues  
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Comments

>>>>>Republicans introduced amendments that would have removed references to "same sex" partners, arguing the bill discriminates against the domestic partners of non-married heterosexual federal employees

Repubs make a good point!

Posted by: angie12106 | July 30, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

It's fine to make the bill gender neutral as long as marriage laws are gender neutral. The whole point is to give gay employees the same rights as hetero employees in light of the fact that the law prohibits same sex marriage. Hetero couples have always had the option to get married and get full benefits while gay couples don't. It's a simple matter of equality in the work place and in life - make marriage gender neutral.

Posted by: mdnc | July 30, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

I agree with mdnc (11:04 a.m. comment). I am totally opposed to special rights for heterosexuals!

Posted by: skvanbibber | July 30, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

>>>>>Republicans introduced amendments that would have removed references to "same sex" partners, arguing the bill discriminates against the domestic partners of non-married heterosexual federal employees

Repubs make a good point!


Posted by: angie12106 | July 30, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

******************

Nope. Sorry!!! The LGBT proponents have been making that argument since Day 1. Republicans don't get to tie a red ribbon on it and make it theirs. If they really wanna play ball on this one, all they have to do is sit down, shut up, and vote YES.

Posted by: trambusto | July 30, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

From my perspective it should be something much broader of which I would call the Kate and Allie Law (just like the old tv show). where two people could support each other under health insurance and benefits. Similarly it could apply to siblings or between aunt/uncle-niece /nephew where an older brother who is working could set up an arangement with his younger sibling who is too old for insuranceunder parents or cant afford it and bring him under it while they go to college. I would have done this for my sister who went back to college for a masters but had medication she needed to take but under the graduate student health insurance it was still expensive on her.

Posted by: djp98374 | July 30, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

I am all for any benefits of homosexual partnerships, but I see no need for heterosexual or homosexual financial benefits to people who are 'in love'. The exception being if they have children and the society has a need for children. I think we should all work and get our health insurance through work--but why saddle employers (including the government) with expenses because two people want to live together. Every employer expense increases the cost of doing business and makes our products more expensive and less competitive. And if they are government benefits, they increase taxes. Love is great! but let's have the lovers pay their own way. Let them make decisions for each other in every area that doesn't pick someone else's pocket!

Posted by: coachoconnorucla | July 30, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

fr coachoconnorucla:

>I am all for any benefits of homosexual partnerships, but I see no need for heterosexual or homosexual financial benefits to people who are 'in love'. The exception being if they have children and the society has a need for children....<

As a gay Christian woman who married my WIFE last year, we are NOT asking for "financial benefits" just because we choose to not have kids. Many STRAIGHT couples choose to not have kids. My WIFE is on my dental plan, and it is absolutely NONE of YOUR business whether or not she is.

Get a clue, "coach" and grow UP.

Oh, and by the way, I am IN LOVE with my WIFE, and we deserve full and equal benefits just like a "straight" couple. Deal with it.

Posted by: Alex511 | July 30, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Progress is being made -- so I really hope gay rights groups will give it a rest with Obama "isn't doing enough" line. Unfortunately, there is a segment of people who will never except gays or lesbians under any circumstances -- that's not right or just, of course -- but so long as they vote, the struggle will continue. But progress is being made.

Posted by: vegasgirl1 | July 30, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

This is not benefits for same sex couples. This is for domestic partners. Without a doubt, it benefits same sex couples, but it also benefits POTOSLT -- people of the opposite sex living together.

Posted by: cdorobek | July 30, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Why should the USG (i.e., taxpayer) pay health and other benefits for partners of gay/lesbian and heterosexual federal employees who are not legally married? How will such relationships be verified & who will monitor them when such couples "break up?" This is just another way for federal employees to scam the USG, as I saw as a federal employee. What ever happened to the concept that a marital union is one between a man and a woman? Call me old-fashioned, but I don't recall reading anywhere in the Bible about same-sex partners/marriages. What path is this country down? Main reason I did not vote for President Obama.

Posted by: lyk2run | July 31, 2009 7:19 AM | Report abuse

"I am all for any benefits of homosexual partnerships, but I see no need for heterosexual or homosexual financial benefits to people who are 'in love'. The exception being if they have children and the society has a need for children. I think we should all work and get our health insurance through work--but why saddle employers (including the government) with expenses because two people want to live together. Every employer expense increases the cost of doing business and makes our products more expensive and less competitive. And if they are government benefits, they increase taxes. Love is great! but let's have the lovers pay their own way. Let them make decisions for each other in every area that doesn't pick someone else's pocket!" -- coachoconnorucla
---------

Okay coach let me school you on the fundamental problem behind your argument here (which I actually agree with to some extent)--GAY AND LESBIAN COUPLES ARE DENIED MARRIAGE IN MOST STATES!
So really, there is no other status we can have in most places, "in love" is all the law will let us be! So if the federal government offers these benefits to me and my boyfriend, that's great! If they require us to be married, than they better force the District of Columbia to issue marriages to gay couples (which it will by the end of this year, I assure you). If we lived in, say, Virginia or Missouri however, I guarantee you that would not happen. The feds can't grant employment benefits that require a marriage stipulation if marriage isn't allowed in the majority of the states. So then the government would have to force states to grant gay marriage... which they would have a fit over! That's why these benefits can not YET be tied to marriage... because marriage is not equal for us yet! Additionally, how many straight couples do you think take advantage of the system and pretend to be together just to keep the insurance and tax benefits?! So what's the difference?!

Posted by: matt3470 | July 31, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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