Support grows for Domestic Partnership Benefits bill

Tuesday - 4/3/2012, 1:21pm EDT

More lawmakers are supporting a bill to open federal employees' benefits to their same-sex partners. Twenty senators all Democrats have signed on to the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which was introduced by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee leaders.

"This legislation is about equality for the gay community, pure and simple," said Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), in a release on his Senate website. He sponsored the bill with Sen. Susan Collins (R- Maine).

Joining Collins and Lieberman in co-sponsoring the bill are: Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Dick Durbin (D- Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Frank Lauthenberg (D-N.J.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Jeff Merkley (D- Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)

"I am pleased that so many of my colleagues are showing their support, as are a growing number of civil rights groups, labor groups and businesses," Lieberman said. "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."

Thirty-five organizations have endorsed the bill.

Collins said the government competes for job applicants with companies that offer domestic partners benefits. Federal personnel officials told a health insurance company last week to enroll the partner of a gay federal worker right away. But that decision applied to just one person: the wife of Karen Golinski, who had brought a lawsuit.

If the bill were to become law, federal employees who are same-sex domestic partners in a committed relationship would be eligible for health benefits, family and medical leave and long-term care. They would also receive federal retirement benefits.

This is not the first time Lieberman has introduced the bill. He has done it four times before, twice with Collins.