Senate bill would extend federal benefits to domestic partners

Friday - 11/18/2011, 4:18pm EST

By Jolie Lee
Web Editor
Federal News Radio

Leaders of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee introduced a bill today that extends the same benefits to same-sex partners that spouses of federal employees now receive.

The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2011 (S.1910) was the logical next step after the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, which banned gays from openly serving in the military, said committee chairman and bill co-sponsor Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) in a statement.

"We repealed the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy in the military because we want the best men and women America has to offer to defend our country," Lieberman said. "The same is true for federal employees: we want to attract the best men and women possible to serve in federal government. One way to do that is by offering competitive benefits to the family members of gay federal employees."

Committee ranking member and bill co-sponsor Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said the private sector is increasingly extending benefits to same-sex couples.

To qualify for benefits, the couple would have to file an affidavit that they are in a committed domestic partnership. The partners must have a common residence, unless work (such as assignments abroad) prevents them from living together, according to the bill.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the cost of extending benefits would be $70 million per year through 2020, according to a committee release.

"Considered as a share of the federal government's total budget for federal employees, this estimated cost would amount to only about two hundredths of a percent (0.0002)," according to the release.