A key Senate committee is expected to vote on Wisconsin Representative Tammy Baldwin's Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009 (DPBO) on December 16.

The scheduled meeting was posted Friday on the committee's website and confirmed to On Top Magazine as a final markup by a committee staffer who did not wish to be identified. The staffer said several amendments might be considered before members take a final vote.

The bill would extend benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. The legislation is necessary because the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing gay unions, bars such benefits. DPBO would carve out an exception to the law.

Introduced in May, the bill has quickly wended its way through both chambers of Congress and it received a significant boost in November when a House committee approved the bill with an overwhelming 23 to 12 vote.

However, the bill faces a tougher audience in Senator Joseph Lieberman's Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, where a minority of members – 7 out of 17 – have signed on as co-sponsors.

But if Democrats – and Independent Chairman Lieberman, who favors the legislation – remain united in voting for the bill, then passage is assured. Among Republicans, only Senator Susan Collins of Maine is expected to vote in favor of the bill. The remaining members – Senators Tom Coburn, John McCain, George V. Voinovich, John Ensign, Lindsey Graham and Robert F. Bennett – score low on the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) Congressional Scorecard, an annual report that measures a lawmaker's support for gay rights.