September 24, 2008
Historic U.S. Senate Hearing on Need for Federal Employee Partner Benefits
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese offers testimony
WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization, today participated in the first-ever U.S. Senate hearing exclusively on the issue of federal employee partner benefits. The hearing, held by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, was titled "Domestic Partner Benefits for Federal Employees: Fair Policy and Good Business." Coordinated by Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Ranking Member Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), the hearing is an important and necessary step toward enactment of equal employment benefits for LGBT federal civilian employees.
"This legislation, which is long overdue, would 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," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese, as written in submitted testimony. "Equal pay for equal work is a value fundamental to American opportunity. The federal government should be the standard bearer for fair workplace practices. As long it denies gay and lesbian employees the comprehensive family benefits that their heterosexual colleagues receive, the federal government will fall short of that standard, and continue to lag behind the nation's top employers."
"I welcome this Senate hearing and consider it one more step in our march toward full equality," said Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) who authors the companion bill, H.R. 4838, in the House. "Only when we eliminate discriminatory practices in the workplace will we allow both employees and businesses to reach their full potential. As an employer, the federal government must not only set an example, but must compete with corporate America for the best-qualified workforce. Offering domestic partner benefits is a means toward both ends."
The benefits for federal employees would include family health insurance, pension and survivor benefits and relocation expenses for families who are transferred. And for State Department employees abroad it would include access to anti-terrorism and language training, medical facilities, and evacuation services.
The Human Rights Campaign worked closely with the Senate staff in crafting the legislation and was a lead coalition partner in lobbying for the hearing. Advocating for the legislation was a top priority for HRC activists during the Spring Lobby Day. HRC also worked with employers in the private sector to endorse the legislation and reached out to all Congressional offices with up-to-date resources such as the Corporate Equality Index, demonstrating support and need for DP Benefits. To view the Corporate Equality Index, visit: www.hrc.org/cei.
The need for federal domestic partner benefits was also incorporated in HRC's 7-Days to a Better Financial You, with stories from former Ambassador Michael Guest and other federal civilian employees explaining how the lack of benefits hurts LGBT families. To learn more about the 7 Days campaign, visit www.hrc.org/7days.
For coverage on the hearing and to read the full testimony, visit our blog, www.HRCBackStory.org.
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.