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