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Tammy Baldwin Introduces Bipartisan Gay Rights Bill to Congress

Thursday Sep 19, 2013
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Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced bipartisan legislation on Thursday to extend employee benefit programs to cover the same-sex domestic partners of federal employees to the same extent as those benefits cover legally married spouses of federal employees. The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2013 (DPBO) would put the federal government on par with a majority of Fortune 500 companies.

"We’ve made great progress for committed, same-sex couples in America but we still have work to do to move freedom and fairness forward," said Senator Baldwin. "This bill helps provide federal employees and their domestic partners equal access and opportunity to the benefits that businesses across our country are already providing. It’s time for the federal government to lead as an equal opportunity employer and I’m proud to work across the aisle with Senator Collins to advance that leadership."

"This change is both fair policy and good business practice. The federal government must compete with the private sector when it comes to attracting the most qualified, skilled, and dedicated employees. Among Fortune 500 companies, for example, domestic partner benefits are commonplace. According to the Office of Personnel Management, nearly 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies, including some of our top federal contractors, extend employment benefits to domestic partners," said Senator Collins.

A large and growing number of America’s major corporations, as well as state and local governments and educational institutions, have extended their employee benefit programs to cover their employees’ committed domestic partners. For example, almost 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies now offer health benefits to employees’ domestic partners, up from just 25 percent in 2000. Overall, more than 8,000 private-sector companies make such benefits available to employees’ domestic partners, as do the governments of 18 states and at least 150 cities and towns.

Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives today by U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA).

The bicameral, bipartisan legislation would provide the same-sex domestic partners of federal employees access to all federal employee benefits current federal employee spouses receive, no matter what state they live in or whether or not they have access to legal marriage in their home state.

Under DPBO, a federal employee and their same-sex domestic partner would be eligible to participate in federal retirement, life insurance, health, workers’ compensation, and Family and Medical Leave benefits to the same extent as married employees and their spouses. Such employees and their domestic partners would likewise assume the same obligations as those that apply to married employees and their spouses, such as anti-nepotism rules and financial disclosure requirements.

Senator Baldwin has long been a supporter of the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act. She first co-sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives in 1999 and served as the lead House Democrat on the bill from 2007-2012, before leading the effort in the Senate this year.

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