The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, in conjunction with the Center for American Progress Action Fund, launched a public education campaign around the lack of domestic partner benefits offered to federal workers. Each fall, eight million federal employees, retirees, and their dependents are offered the opportunity to review the various health program options in a time period referred to as “open season.” For LGBT workers, this time draws attention to the inequalities that they face when it comes to employer-provided benefits.
“The federal government used to be the standard bearer for fair workplace practices but fails to provide equal pay for equal work,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Our civil service works best when it can recruit and retain the best employees but the government simply cannot compete with the private sector while denying comprehensive family benefits to some workers.”
The campaign advocates for the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, sponsored in the House by Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., and in the Senate by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., which would provide the same family benefits – including health insurance – to lesbian and gay federal civilian employees as are already provided to employees with different-sex spouses. While the Obama administration has extended some benefits on an equal basis to federal employees with same-sex partners, extending health care benefits requires a change in the law by Congress. DPBO passed out of both House and Senate committees last year but has not been brought to a floor vote in either chamber.
Expressing the reason for her legislation, Rep. Baldwin, co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality caucus, said: “Only when we eliminate discriminatory practices in the workplace will we allow both employees and businesses to reach their full potential. As an employer, the federal government must not only set an example, but must compete with corporate America for the best-qualified workforce. Offering domestic partner benefits is a means toward both ends.”
Fifty-nine percent of Fortune 500 companies provide domestic partner benefits to their employees. In addition, 23 states, the District of Columbia, and over 150 local governments make benefits available to public employees and their same-sex partners.
“Offering benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of federal employees is a common-sense and inexpensive step for the government to take,” said Jeff Krehely, Director of LGBT Research and Communications at CAP Action. “DPBO puts the federal government on equal footing with the policies of other leading U.S. employers.”
Through an online portal, visitors can learn more about the issue and hear stories of real federal employees who have faced hardships due to the lack of equal benefits. HRC and CAP Action are also facilitating LGBT civil servants to share their concerns and personal stories about the lack of family health benefits with Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry. Citizens can also take action by writing to OPM and advocating for equal pay for equal work for federal workers.
The site is www.hrc.org/DPBO/.
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