The federal government could take one simple, but essential step that would immediately expand quality health coverage to millions of Americans: extending health benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, who are twice as likely to be uninsured as their heterosexual counterparts. Federal employees in same-sex partnerships currently have no access to benefits for their partners. Domestic partner benefits present an opportunity for the federal government to improve the quality of its workforce, and indicate its acceptance of all American families.
Congress is currently considering the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act (H.R. 4838/S. 2521), which would extend these benefits, along with the other rights and responsibilities of married couples, to federal employees in same-sex domestic partnerships. Congressional passage of this bill would place the federal government among the ranks of thousands of private companies, hundreds of municipalities, and 15 states and the District of Columbia that have already put such policies into action.
The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act offers an easy choice to legislators. There are both practical and ethical arguments for extending benefits to domestic partners—including the fact that a majority of Americans believe it is the right thing to do. And the experiences of state governments clearly show that domestic partner benefits do not exact a significant cost on the employer.
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