House Holds Hearing on Federal Employee Equal Benefits Bill
July 8, 2009
Today the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia will hold a legislative hearing to examine H.R. 2517, the “Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act of 2009,” introduced by Representatives Tammy Baldwin and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The bill would provide domestic partners of federal employees equal benefits -- a policy of treating every worker equally long embraced by corporate America. President Obama in signing a federal employee momorandum last month pledged his support for the bill. The hearing will consist of three panels of experts. Additionally HRC President Joe Solmonese submitted written testimony [pdf], the full text of which is after the jump. PANEL I Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin Mr. John Berry, Director, Office of Personnel Management PANEL II Mr. Greg Franklin, Assistant Executive Officer, Health Benefits, California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) Ms. Carolyn E. Wright, Vice President, Corporate Human Resources, American Airlines Ms. M. V. Lee Badgett, Research Director, The Williams Institute, UCLA Law School PANEL III Ms. Lorilyn Holmes, current federal employee; Reverend, Metropolitan Community Churches Ambassador (ret.) Michael Guest, former career Foreign Service Officer Dr. Frank Page, Pastor, First Baptist Church of Taylors; President of the Southern Baptist Convention 2006
United States House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia Hearing on the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009 Written Testimony of Joe Solmonese, President, Human Rights Campaign July 8, 2009 On behalf of the Human Rights Campaign and our more than 750,000 members and supporters nationwide, I thank Chairman Lynch for holding today’s hearing on H.R. 2517, the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (DPBO). I also want to thank Representatives Baldwin and Ros-Lehtinen for their leadership and commitment on this important legislation. As the nation’s largest civil rights organization advocating for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, the Human Rights Campaign strongly supports this legislation, which would ensure that lesbian and gay federal employees receive equal compensation for their service to our nation. The DPBO would provide equal family benefits and obligations—including retirement benefits, health insurance, relocation expenses, and many more—to federal civilian employees with same-sex partners. This legislation, which is long overdue, would also bring the federal government up to the standards of America’s leading employers, who provide these benefits in order to recruit and retain the most talented workforce possible. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 13 percent of employees’ compensation comes in the form of insurance and retirement benefits, which generally cover family members and dependents, and 7 percent in the form of paid leave, which makes it possible for workers to accommodate work and family obligations. Increasingly, America’s leading employers—including 57% of Fortune 500 companies, 23 states, the District of Columbia, and over 150 local governments—make benefits available to public employees and their same-sex partners. The federal government—the nation’s largest civilian employer with 2.7 million employees—does not provide health, retirement, or relocation expenses for the same-sex partners of its employees. As a result, a lesbian or gay civilian employee doing the same job as his or her married heterosexual counterpart, in the same pay grade, will receive significantly lower compensation. Furthermore, because many companies that provide services to the government—such as top federal contractors Bechtel, Boeing, EDS, General Electric, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, McKesson, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and SAIC—offer equal family benefits to their lesbian and gay employees, qualified lesbian or gay applicants have a strong incentive to choose the private sector over government work even where the positions are similar. On June 17, 2009, President Obama reduced the inequities that lesbian and gay civilian employees, including Foreign Service Officers, face when he signed a Presidential Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination. The Memorandum identified certain benefits that could be provided equally without congressional action. In particular, the Memorandum instructed the Director of OPM to add domestic partners of federal employees to the long-term care insurance program and require supervisors to allow employees to use their sick leave to take care of domestic partners and nonbiological, non-adopted children. The Memorandum also addressed the inadequacy of benefits for Foreign Service Officers with same-sex partners, an issue that drew public attention last year, when former Ambassador Michael Guest ended a distinguished career and called upon the previous administration to equalize benefits for same-sex partners. Foreign Service employees’ same-sex partners will now have access to family benefits such as the use of medical facilities at posts abroad, medical evacuation from posts abroad, and inclusion in family size for housing allocations. The President also instructed the heads of all other executive departments and agencies, in consultation with OPM, to conduct reviews of the benefits provided by their departments and agencies to determine what authority they have to extend benefits to the same-sex partners of their employees. Although the Memorandum is an important step in providing same-sex partners of federal employees with the benefits already available to spouses of heterosexual employees, it does not approach providing a full range of benefits. Notably, it does not offer health insurance or retirement savings—the two most critical employee benefits—to the domestic partners of federal employees. The President acknowledged in the Memorandum that certain benefits could not be provided under existing laws and must be addressed legislatively. The President therefore announced his support for the DPBO legislation in order to ensure these critical benefits are provided. This historic hearing—the first in the House of Representatives—is an important step toward guaranteeing equal compensation for lesbian and gay workers serving our government at home and abroad. Equal pay for equal work is a value fundamental to American opportunity. The federal government should be the standard bearer for fair workplace practices, but has lagged behind the top employers for too long. By passing the DPBO, Congress can bring the federal workforce into the 21st century, ensuring that all of its workers are treated fairly and that the best and brightest are attracted to federal service. On behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, I urge you to pass the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act.
May 22, 2013
May 22, 2013