Back in September, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security And Governmental Affairs considered the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2007, a bill that would provide Federal benefits to same sex domestic partners of Federal employees. Howard Weizmann, the deputy director of the U.S. Office Of Personnel Management (OPM) objected to the bill because it “could lead to fraud and abuse in the programs we administer.”
Proponents of the legislation, including Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), the bill’s sponsor, and Susan Collins (R-MI), remained skeptical of Weizmann’s claim, arguing that a large number of private sector companies — including more than half of Fortune 500 companies — already offer domestic partnership benefits and successfully detect fraud through verification systems that should provide models for the federal government.
Weizmann, however, remained unconvinced. He claimed that the office was unaware of any interest from Federal employees for such benefits even and suggested that since fraud occurred in a fictional movie about two heterosexual New York firefighters who pretend to be a gay couple, it would be a problem in real life:
First of all, to suggest that we are being far fetched in the sense that these benefits are open to fraud or abuse. It’s not an unrealistic concern. I would suggest even Hollywood has discussed this in a movie with Adam Sandler. In which, I think, ‘Chuck and Larry’ get married, which the subject of the movie, was quite frankly, was insurance fraud, along the lines of what we’re discussing. This is not far fetched and it’s not disingenuous to suggest such.
In truth, the issue is not fraud but equality, since committed gay couples have to pay more for less coverage. “It’s a matter of equal pay for equal work,” Brendan Doyle, a member of Federal GLOBE — the association of LGBT federal employees — told the committee. “Doyle said his partner of 21 years must pay $600 a month more for health insurance coverage than a straight colleague who covers his family of four.”
Extending Federal benefits to gay employees would benefit more than 30,000 employees with same-sex partners, allow the Federal government to compete with private companies offering benefits, and increase costs by “only 0.4 percent of total health care expenditures, a tiny fraction that is consistent with the experience of thousands of private employers,” one study found.
Open Season for the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program began on November 10 and runs through December 8. As the Human Rights Campaign points out, “LGBT Americans deserve no less for their families than the basic benefits and protections afforded to different-sex spouses” and the OPM “can lead the way in calling for truly equal compensation for federal workers.”
Click here to “send a message to OPM Acting Director Michael Hager, telling him that ALL federal employees should be treated equally and have access to the same benefits to help protect our families.”