Legislation Offering Equal Employment Benefits for LGBT Federal Employees Clears Key House Committee

by HRC Staff

Human Rights Campaign lauds House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for successful markup of Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act.

Washington - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, today praised the full U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for marking up H.R. 2517, the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (DPBO). Held by Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-NY), the 23-12 vote moves the bill out of committee and readies it for future consideration by the House of Representatives.

"Today's markup by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee is an important step toward guaranteeing equal compensation for lesbian and gay workers serving our government at home and abroad," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "DPBO recognizes that equal pay for equal work is a value fundamental to American opportunity. We thank Chairman Towns and Congresswomen Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) for their incredible, ongoing leadership in ushering this critical legislation through Congress."

"This vote marks another significant step in our march toward LGBT equality," said Congresswoman Baldwin, Co-Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and author of the bill. "Extending benefits to the domestic partners of federal employees is more than a matter of fairness. As a majority of Fortune 500 companies have already demonstrated, equality and diversity in the workplace boost productivity and help attract and keep the most qualified employees."

The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (DPBO) was introduced in the 111th Congress by Senators Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) in the Senate and by Congresswomen Baldwin and Ros-Lehtinen in the House. DPBO would provide the same family benefits to lesbian and gay federal civilian employees as are already provided to employees with different-sex spouses. To receive benefits, employees would have to submit an affidavit of eligibility for benefits with the Office of Personnel Management, certifying that the employee and domestic partner meet necessary criteria, as provided in the Act.

"This is a great moment for the LGBT community and for all Americans who value equal rights. This committee vote assures that this historic legislation will soon be debated and, hopefully, passed. It is high time that lesbian and gay federal employees receive the same employee benefits that every other federal employee receives. Anything less goes against the very founding principles of this Republic where equality for all means exactly that," said Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen in a statement.

DPBO would bring employment practices in the federal government in line with those of America's largest and most successful corporations. Nearly 60% of Fortune 500 companies provide domestic partner benefits to their employees. In addition, 22 states, the District of Columbia, and over 150 local governments make benefits available to public employees and their same-sex partners. A May 2000 poll conducted by the Associated Press found that a majority of Americans favor the extension of health insurance coverage to same-sex partners. In addition, this legislation has been endorsed by the American Federation of Government Employees, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Harvard University, National Treasury Employees Union and United Church of Christ.

"The federal government should be the standard bearer for fair workplace practices, but has lagged behind the top employers for too long," said Solmonese. "By passing 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."

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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