After much debate over gay rights and extending benefits packages, a House committee just passed legislation that would provide health care and other benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees.
By a vote of 23 to 12, the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed the 2009 Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (H.R. 2517), which would provide all of the same employment benefits available to spouses of heterosexual federal government workers — including health insurance, retirement, disability and other benefits — to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees.
The provisions would apply to partners of current and former employees, as well as retirees.
The bill is now expected to move to a full House vote, which could happen before the end of the year.
Two sides to the debate:
Support for the bill split along party lines:
- Democrats supported the bill, saying it makes the government’s benefits package fair and equitable, and
- Republicans objected to the legislation, saying it would begin to redefine marriage.
One big supporter of the bill was John Berry, the U.S. government’s chief HR officer. In his testimony in support of the bill, Berry suggested that failing to extend benefits to domestic partners of federal employees would say to young people, “This is not a cool place to be.”
Extending benefit coverage would ensure the federal government remains competitive with the private sector in terms of attracting top applicants, according to Berry.
What it’ll cost
The Obama administration has estimated the bill would cost taxpayers $56 million a year, or about 0.2% of the entire cost of the government’s federal employee health insurance.
Also, it’s estimated that same-sex benefits account for about 0.5% of the average company’s healthcare costs.