The Senate’s Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee approved the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act on May 16.
The measure, offered by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), would open up programs such as health and life insurance, pension and retirement, and family and medical-leave to the committed same-sex partners of all federal employees.
The same committee approved the bill last session but it failed to make it to the Senate floor for a vote. The companion piece has not yet made it out of House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.
The Senate bill has 23 cosponsors, including Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey (D).
The legislation has the backing of the Obama administration, although it would need to clear the Republican-controlled House to make it to the president’s desk.
Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese said that the measure is “about the basic concept of fairness in the workplace.”
According to HRC, about 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer domestic-partner employees.
“The federal government would be wise to follow the private sector in offering equal pay for equal work,” he said. “America’s major corporations have discovered that equality is not only the right thing to do, but good for business. Equal workplace policies, like those DPBO would enact, will help attract and retain the best and brightest talent, which is exactly what our federal workforce needs.”
Domestic-partner programs are also in place in 24 states, Washington, D.C., and more than 100 municipalities.
Philadelphia adopted a domestic-partner program in 1998. Four other Pennsylvania municipalities have since instated domestic-partner benefits for city employees.
Pennsylvania extended benefits to same-sex partners of state employees in 2009, a policy change enacted by the Pennsylvania Employees Benefit Trust Fund, which oversees state employee benefit programs.
Jen Colletta can be reached at email@example.com.