Thursday, July 30, 2009

HRC: Details on Today’s DPBO Markup

From today's Human Rights Campaign Backstory

Details on Today’s DPBO Markup

UPDATE: Today’s Subcommittee markup of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, while ultimately successful, did see an attempt by the Republican minority to distort and derail the bill. Subcommittee Republicans — Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Mark Souder (R-IN) and Brian Bilbray (R-CA) — attempted to frame the issue as a referendum on marriage, arguing that this bill devalues traditional marriage. Furthermore, they argued that employment benefits historically have been given to traditional married couples, with the intent that one parent was staying at home to take care of the children.

Dismissing this outdated, inaccurate notion and recognizing that many families today have both parents working full-time, Chairman Stephen Lynch (D-MA) and Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), William Lacy Clay (D-MO) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) recognized that DPBO is about equal pay for equal work.

During the markup, Representative Bilbray attempted to kill the bill with an amendment to expand the extension of benefits to any federal employees who are in a domestic partnership — same-sex or opposite-sex — claiming that it would be unfair to exclude different-sex couples from coverage. However, opposite-sex couples already have access to complete family benefits under federal law. To gain access to these benefits, they simply have to marry. In contrast, marriage is only available to same-sex couples in six states, and even if they do legally marry, they still do not have access to federal civilian employment benefits such as health and retirement benefits for their families. The Bilbray amendment was not about fairness, or even about giving different-sex couples a new manner of securing family benefits. It was about making the bill more expensive so that it would fail. And while HRC does not oppose providing benefits to all families, we support the existing bill and applaud any attempts to prevent poison pills from standing in the way of domestic partner benefits. The Bilbray amendment failed on a voice vote.

Lastly, a Chairman’s amendment to expand DPBO to include annuitants (recipients of an annuity) passed the committee by a vote of 5-3. The bill as amended then passed the Subcommittee by a vote of 5-3.

DPBO now moves ahead to consideration by the full House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. We will continue working with our coalition partners — including the American Federation of Government Employees; Center for American Progress Action Fund; Family Equality Council; Federal GLOBE; Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN); Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA); GOProud; National Coalition for LGBT Health; National Air Traffic Controllers; National Center for Lesbian Rights; National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU); Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG); National Pride at Work, AFL-CIO and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) — to push this bill until it reaches the President’s desk for signature.

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