A House committee has approved a bill that would extend benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees.

In a 23 to 12 vote on Wednesday the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform approved the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009 (DPBO).

Openly lesbian Wisconsin Representative Tammy Baldwin introduced the legislation in May and has testified in favor of the legislation both in the House and Senate. In the Senate, a committee has heard testimony on the bill but has yet to schedule a final vote.

“I'm delighted with the Committee's action today and grateful for Chairman [Edolphus 'Ed'] Towns' support and leadership on this issue that affects so many government employees and their families,” Baldwin said in a statement.

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.

Openly gay Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank has praised Obama for supporting the measure, saying: “He deserves the credit. He has kept this issue alive.”

Congressman Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois, introduced a last-minute amendment to counter a Republican amendment calling for a study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the possible effects of the benefits on the insurance premiums of other employees.

Quigley's amendment expanded the GAO study to also examine how offering such benefits will impact the federal government's ability to recruit and retain employees.

“The Republican amendment strives to paint the extension of equal benefits in a divisive light, as a burden to those who already receive them,” Quigley said. “My amendment seeks to highlight the huge gains such an extension could bring to the federal government.”

The legislation now heads to the House for a final vote. With only 127 co-sponsors, the bill has yet to attract sufficient support for approval. But Baldwin recently told TheHill.com that she “absolutely” believes the bill will pass.