Federal Employee Groups Urge Government for Partner Benefits

by HRC Staff

"Open season" time period raises the alarm in lack of benefits for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, in conjunction with federal employee groups, today urged the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to support domestic partner benefits for federal civilian employees. Each fall, 8 million federal employees, retirees, and their dependents, are offered the opportunity to review the various health program options in a time period referred to as "open season." For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers, this time draws attention to the existing inequality that they face when it comes to employer-provided benefits.

"The federal government should be the standard bearer for fair workplace practices," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "As long as it denies lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender 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."

This year, in addition to pouring over extensive information about 269 health-plan options, cost, and quality, LGBT civil servants are asking OPM to support covering their family members as well. The health benefits which the vast majority of workers obtain through their place of work, are not extended to domestic partners of federal civil servants. While their colleagues are worried about increasing co-pays and deductibles, LGBT employees struggle to come up with 100% of the cost of insuring their partners.

Expressing her support for the issue, Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus co-chair, Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) stated, "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 most frequent concern we hear expressed by our members is the need for fairness in health benefits for their partners and families, and in having equal compensation with heterosexual employees," said Len Hirsch, president of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Employees of the Federal Government, also known as Federal GLOBE, a group that has pressed for domestic partner benefits since its inception in 1992.

Through an online website, individuals have the opportunity to write to OPM and express their desire for equal benefits. While the incoming administration has expressed its support for the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, encouraging OPM to support LGBT families improves the prospects for achieving that goal. To write to the Office of Personnel Management, visit: http://www.hrcactioncenter.org/campaign/opm-dpb

The benefits programs include the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB), which is used by members of congress, as well as the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program, and the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program. "We hope that Members of Congress will extend health benefits to all Federal employees' families - including the families of Members' own staff," said Derek Dorn, co-chair of the Gay, Lesbian, Allied Senate Staff (GLASS) Caucus.

"Adopting fair policies in the treatment of domestic partner benefits will not only benefit current LGBT employees of Congress, it will enable the entire government to draw highly qualified LGBT Americans, who may otherwise elect to work elsewhere, to careers in public service, " said Victor Castillo, co-founder of the Lesbian & Gay Congressional Staff Association (LGCSA).

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.

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