Lack of domestic partner benefits for civil servants continues

Posted by Lisa Rein on

"As federal workers and retirees weigh their options for health insurance and other job benefits for next year, the country's leading gay rights group has launched a public education campaign to highlight the lack of domestic partner benefits for civil servants.

"President Obama has used his powers to extend federal rights and benefits for gays and lesbians...

"As a result, same-sex partners of federal workers can now sign up for long-term care insurance and several other benefits traditionally afforded to heterosexual spouses, such as medical treatment, relocation assistance and membership with credit unions and fitness centers. Gay and lesbian federal workers can now take paid leave to care for sick or dying partners.

"But the most vital benefits sought by gays and lesbians in the federal workforce, health insurance and other family benefits, must be approved by Congress. A bill granting them has passed committees in the Senate and House but has not been brought up for a floor vote in either chamber.

"'It is that time of year when federal workers look at their health plans and say, 'I could get better dental coverage or some other addition to my plan, but I don't have the option to cover my family,' ' said Brian Moulton, chief legislative counsel to the Human Rights Campaign, which launched its outreach effort last week with the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

"'It's an unpleasant reminder to folks who aren't able to have those benefits,' Moulton said.

"Moulton said the campaign is urging federal workers to lobby their congressmen to pass the bill during the lame-duck session. He acknowledged that its chances will diminish when the Republican-controlled House takes office in January.

"The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, sponsored by Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) would allow same-sex spouses to participate in the federal pension program, and to receive life insurance and compensation for a work injury sustained by their spouse, all benefits enjoyed by heterosexual partners.

"More than half the country's Fortune 500 companies provide domestic partner benefits to their employees, the Human Rights Campaign said. In addition, 23 states, the District of Columbia and more than 150 local governments make benefits available to public employees and their same-sex partners.

"The extra coverage is estimated to cost the government between $600 million and $900 million over 10 years. The government spends about $200 billion a year on salaries and benefits for federal workers and retirees, Moulton said.

"Gays and lesbians make up about 5 percent of the 1.9 million federal workers. A total of about 8 million federal employees, retirees and their dependents are entitled to federal health benefits."

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