U.S. House Holds Hearing on Need for Equal Employment Benefits for LGBT Federal Employees

by HRC Staff

Human Rights Campaign submits testimony in support of guaranteeing equal compensation for lesbian and gay workers.

Washington - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization, today thanked the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia for holding the first U.S. House hearing on H.R. 2517, the "Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act" (DPBO). Coordinated by Committee Chairman Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), the hearing highlighted the important need for equal employment benefits for LGBT federal civilian employees.

"This historic hearing 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, in written testimony submitted in the record. "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."

The hearing included testimony from several witnesses, including Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) OPM Director John Berry Former Ambassador Michael Guest Carol Wright, VP for Corporate Human Resources at American Airlines Lee Badgett of the Williams Institute Candy Holmes, a GAO employee testifying on her own behalf and Gregory Franklin from the California Public Employees' Retirement System.

"Building and maintaining a strong workforce begins with treating workers fairly. LGBT federal workers in committed relationships are not offered the same employment benefits as their married coworkers. This is wrong," said Rep. Baldwin. "It is time for the federal government to follow the lead of many private sector employers who value all their workers and provide employee benefits that cover all families."

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 Representatives Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 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.

DPBO would bring employment practices in the federal government in line with those of America's largest and most successful corporations. Fifty-seven percent of Fortune 500 companies provide domestic partner benefits to their employees. In addition, 23 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.

"It is time for the federal government to be doing what many Fortune 500 companies have been doing and that is provide federal benefits to gay federal civilian employees as we do with different-sex spouses. The federal government should be leading by example in this clear case of equal pay for all.I urge my colleagues to support this bill and send an unequivocal message that the federal government treats all its employees equally," said Rep. Ros-Lehtinen.

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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