Senator Joseph Lieberman's federal gay partner benefits bill was warmed greeted during a Thursday Senate hearing.

The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act would extend benefits to the gay spouses of federal employees.

In June, President Obama signed an executive order that extends some benefits but the order changed little; it offered federal employees sick leave to take care of a sick partner or a non-biological child, but partners remain blocked from access to primary health insurance and pension programs. At the time, Obama mentioned the bill, saying Congress would need to fill in the gaps.

In his opening remarks, Lieberman said he believes in the bill because “it is the fair and right thing to do” and “it makes sense – practical sense – for the federal government as an employer.”

The hearing took place in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chaired by Lieberman, an Independent from Connecticut.

Testifying before the committee were Wisconsin Representative Tammy Baldwin, John Berry, the director of the Office of Personnel Management and Dr. William H. Hendrix, a Dow Chemical Company representative.

Hendrix, who heads the group Gays, Lesbian and Allies at Dow (GLAD), said the bill would “help the US government create a more respectful and inclusive work environment.”

Baldwin, who has introduced similar legislation in the House, said the bill would shore up the government's competitive advantage.

“As it stands, some federal employees do not receive equal compensation and benefits for their equal contributions. And the federal government is not keeping pace with leading private-sector employers in recruiting and retaining top talent.”

Baldwin also testified on the bill's anti-fraud provisions, saying the “penalties for fraudulent claims for domestic partners would be the same as the current penalties for fraudulent claims of marriage.”

As a lesbian and federal worker, she also offered personal testimony on the inequities of federal benefits.

“[T]he difference between my health benefits and yours, with regard to that benefit alone over the course of my ten years in Congress is measured in five figures,” she testified.

Berry, the highest-ranking openly gay official in the Obama administration, testified on the cost of the bill, saying it would be “negligible.”

Lieberman said the bill will likely reach the Senate floor next year. But while testimony at Thursday's hearing was friendly, the bill has only attracted 24 co-sponsors.