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Government extends some benefits to feds’ same-sex partners

Rules build on President Obama’s 2010 executive order.

The Office of Personnel Management published final regulations Friday expanding several benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees.

Same-sex domestic partners of feds now are automatically considered an “insurable interest” for survivor annuities. Federal employees in good health can opt to provide an insurable interest annuity, which is different from a spousal survivor annuity, to certain family members. OPM presumes an insurable interest for spouses, former spouses, blood relatives, common-law spouses and those engaged to be married. The final rule adds same-sex partners to that category.

“The rule is designed to relieve federal employees with same-sex domestic partners from the evidentiary requirements in existing regulations for persons outside this class,” stated the final regulation.

Other changes include enabling same-sex partners of federal workers to be eligible for noncompetitive appointments based on overseas employment, ensuring domestic partners benefit from evacuation pay in emergencies as spouses currently do, and extending to same-sex couples child care subsidies available to low-income civil servants. A proposed rule published in Friday’s Federal Register would allow the children of a federal employee and same-sex partner to receive health benefits under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, including dental and vision insurance. Same-sex partners are not eligible for health care benefits under FEHBP or spousal survivor retirement benefits.

The changes are a result of President Obama’s 2010 executive order directing federal agencies to extend a range of benefits to same-sex domestic partners of their employees. Obama recently publicly endorsed the idea of same-sex marriage and has opposed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman.

While the Obama administration has expanded some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees through executive order and regulations, Congress must pass a law for domestic partners to receive the full range of benefits afforded to federal spouses. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved legislation in May that makes available retirement, health, transportation and other benefits to same-sex domestic partners of government workers. A related House bill, introduced by Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., was referred to the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections in late March.

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