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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
October 6, 2006

Senators propose partner benefits for federal workers

Washington, D.C.--A bipartisan duo of senators introduced legislation on September 27 to extend benefits to the domestic partners of federal employees.

Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Republican Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon put forward the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act so that it would be on the agenda for next year.

In introducing the bill, the senators noted that 8,000 companies in the private sector offer benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of their employees.

The Human Rights Campaign, whose Corporate Equality Index for the year shows that over half of the Fortune 500 companies have benefits in place, points out that such plans are a major selling point for attracting top-quality employees.

�This bill is very affordable but more importantly, it is the right thing to do,� Lieberman said. �Many leading employers, including my home state of Connecticut, provide benefits to domestic partners.�

�It�s time for the federal government to catch up as extending benefits to domestic partners is fair and will help federal agencies compete for the most qualified personnel,� he concluded.

�Federal workers should be able to extend their benefits to loved ones,� Smith added. �It�s a matter of fairness and I think the government should be leading the way rather than following. I believe we need to rid the workplace of discrimination, not just in hiring decisions, but also in the rights and privileges afforded employees.�

The senators� press release on the bill listed some of the major corporations offering benefits, including defense contractors Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and noted that 13 states and 139 municipalities across the country offer such plans. They note that companies often say they offer domestic partner benefits to aid in �recruitment and retention of employees, as well as to be fair.�

The bill faces an uncertain future in Congress, where senators and representatives are reluctant to discuss matters that will bring back discussions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

A similar measure introduced in the House last year by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., died in committee.

Religious conservatives have been linking marriage with other relationships that �approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage,� as it says in the anti-marriage amendment that was approved by Ohio voters in 2004. That language has been used in other states as well.

 

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