The future of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act is in doubt as congressional Republicans and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman have expressed doubts over its cost. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that extending benefits, particularly health care, to same sex partners will cost $310 million over the period extending to 2020. The Office of Personnel Management had previously estimated the cost at $63 million a year, the figure cited by Lieberman in December, 2009.
The legislation would give domestic partners in same sex relationships with federal employees access to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. President Obama endorsed the legislation in a memorandum on June 17, 2009. Separate versions of the bill have been approved by both House and Senate committees. In his endorsement of the bill, the President said the federal government was at a disadvantage compared to private employers who offered such coverage to their employees. He promoted the bill as having cost benefits deriving from employee recruitment and retention.
Asked to extend benefits to gay and lesbian partners administratively, the Office of Personnel Management has taken the position that the Defense of Marriage Act forbids extending benefits to same sex partners. Obama and many congressional Democrats have called for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. The Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA, has stalled, requiring separate legislation to extend health and long term care benefits to the same sex partners of federal employees.
CBO looked at state and local governments as well as other organizations that provide same sex partners’ benefits. From that study, CBO determined that one third of one percent of federal employees “would choose to register a same-sex domestic partnership if given the opportunity.”
In an era of $700 billion bank bailouts, $800+ billion stimulus packages and trillion dollar budgets, CBO’s cost estimates for the direct spending associated with the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act doesn’t sound like much. But it may be just enough to derail the legislation and deny equal benefits to members of the gay and lesbian community whose loved ones and domestic partners are federal employees.
[Author’s Note: The image above is an artist’s depiction of Sappho, the ancient Greek poet from the island of Lesbos.]
Cross posted at Elijah’s Sweete Spot.
Contributor, aka tidbits. Retired attorney in complex litigation, death penalty defense and constitutional law. Former Nat’l Board Chair: Alzheimer’s Association. Served on multiple political campaigns, including two for U.S. Senator Mark O. Hatfield (R-OR). Contributing author to three legal books and multiple legal publications.