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Senate considers gay partner benefits for federal employees

by Nick Langewis

A bill introduced in the United States Senate would equalize employment benefits for same-sex domestic partners of federal employees.

S.2521, also known as the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act, was introduced Wednesday by Republican Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon, independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and 19 co-sponsors. The legislation seeks to grant health benefits, family medical leave, long-term care and retirement benefits, to match those of married couples, to the domestic partners of federal employees.

"The federal government should be leading the way rather than following when it comes to providing benefits," says Senator Smith. "Rights and benefits must be afforded to all employees equally. This bill corrects the current inequity."

"It's time for the federal government to catch up to the private sector," adds Senator Lieberman, "not just to set an example but so that it can compete for the most qualified employees and ensure that all of our public servants receive fair and equitable treatment."

Continues Lieberman, "It makes good economic and policy sense. And it is the right thing to do."

Corporate giants such as Raytheon, Disney, Time Warner, IBM, and Microsoft join a majority of Fortune 500 companies in providing domestic partner benefits to their employees, along with 13 states and 201 local governments.

"This legislation," says Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solomonese, "would allow the federal government to keep pace with other top employers. It is not only a matter of equal pay for equal work, but also the best way to insure that the government has access to the top talent on the same basis as the nationís leading corporations."

The bill's 19 co-sponsors are:

Sen. Daniel Akaka [D-HI]
Sen. Barbara Boxer [D-CA]
Sen. Sherrod Brown [D-OH]
Sen. Maria Cantwell [D-WA]
Sen. Benjamin Cardin [D-MD]
Sen. Hillary Clinton [D-NY]
Sen. Christopher Dodd [D-CT]
Sen. Richard Durbin [D-IL]
Sen. Russell Feingold [D-WI]
Sen. Edward Kennedy [D-MA]
Sen. John Kerry [D-MA]
Sen. Frank Lautenberg [D-NJ]
Sen. Patrick Leahy [D-VT]
Sen. Carl Levin [D-MI]
Sen. Patty Murray [D-WA]
Sen. Barack Obama [D-IL]
Sen. Charles Schumer [D-NY]
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse [D-RI]
Sen. Ron Wyden [D-OR]


Originally published on Thursday December 20, 2007.

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