06.17.09

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On Presidential Memorandum On Federal Benefits And Non-Discrimination

I am pleased that today President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination that will extend a number of benefits to same-sex partners that are afforded to spouses of Federal employees.  I applaud the President for this effort to promote fairness in the workplace.  It is a step in the right direction towards equalizing benefit coverage for all Federal employees.

The memorandum will enable domestic partners of civil service Federal employees to be added to their long-term care insurance program, and enable employees to use their sick leave to take care of domestic partners and non-biological, non-adopted children.  The memorandum also extends a number of benefits to same-sex partners of Foreign Service employees, including the use of medical facilities at posts abroad, medical evacuation from posts abroad, and inclusion in family for housing allocations.

Equal pay for equal work is a cornerstone of our country’s bedrock principles, and equal access to important benefits should share that importance.  Insurance benefits, work incentives and retirement options comprise a significant portion of all employee compensation.  By not offering domestic partnership benefits to its employees, the Federal Government is unfairly withholding these valuable options from dedicated employees across the country.   President Obama’s Memorandum is a step forward towards having a fair and consistent policy. 

This step by the President brings the Federal government in line with many of America’s largest and most successful companies, as well as State and local governments and educational institutions, which already extend benefits to same-sex couples.  Over half of all Fortune 500 companies provide domestic partner benefits to their employees, up from just 25 percent in 2000.  Offering domestic partnership benefits to Federal employees improves the quality of its workforce and demonstrates the Federal government’s commitment to fairness and equality for all Americans.

I am a proud cosponsor of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009, introduced by Senators Lieberman and Collins, which would provide domestic partners of Federal employees all of the same protections and benefits afforded to spouses of Federal employees, including: participation in applicable retirement programs, compensation for work injuries and health insurance benefits.  I am also a cosponsor of the Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act of 2009, which would end the taxation of health benefits provided to domestic partners in workplaces that provide domestic partner health benefits to their employees.

Providing benefits to domestic partners of Federal employees is long overdue.  I look forward to working with the Obama administration and Members on both sides of the aisle to continue to make progress towards equality in the workplace. 

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