This just in… (HRC Back Story):
This morning, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee marked up and passed the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act. In stark contrast to the lengthy and often contentious consideration of the legislation in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last month, the Senate Committee took up and passed the bill in a matter of less than half an hour, with no amendments offered by Republicans to attack the bill. Undoubtedly, the strong bipartisan support for the bill by the committee’s leadership – Chairman Lieberman, I-Conn., and Ranking Member Collins, R-Maine, are the lead co-sponsors – greatly helped to move it forward quickly.
Chairman Lieberman, Ranking Member Collins and Sen. Akaka all spoke eloquently in support of DPBO and then two amendments were considered, both of them offered to improve the bill. The first, a substitute amendment by Sens. Lieberman and Collins, revised the bill to more clearly identify the benefits (and obligations) being made available to the same-sex partners of federal employees. (A similar substitute measure was offered by Chairman Towns, D-N.Y., and passed during the House markup.)
The second, offered by Sen. Burris, D-Ill., who also expressed his strong support for DPBO, directed the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study on the effect of offering DP benefits on the federal government’s recruitment and retention efforts. (Again, similar language was offered during the House markup by Rep. Quigley, D-Ill. and accepted by the committee.) Both amendments were accepted by voice vote.
Reaction from The Task Force:
Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:
"We are extremely pleased by the Senate committee's vote on this important legislation. It is long past time for the federal government — the country's largest civilian employer — to provide benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. In addition to being fundamentally fair, extending these benefits is a sound business decision because it will help the federal government recruit and retain the best people.
"Businesses already understand this. A majority of Fortune 500 companies offer their employees domestic partner benefits, as do hundreds of colleges, universities, local governments and many states. This bill will simply bring the federal government up to the standard already supported by businesses and people across the country."