Benefits for Domestic Partners of Federal Employees? Readers Speak Out

Should legislation be approved to allow unmarried federal employees to apply for benefits for a domestic partner? Here are the results of a recent survey of FedSmith readers on this issue.

A few days ago, the FedSmith site pointed out that legislation had been introduced to allow unmarried federal employees to apply for benefits for their domestic partners. We asked the following question in a survey of our readers:

Do you favor legislation to allow unmarried federal employees to apply for health, dental and vision insurance, retirement and other benefits for their domestic partners?

Readers have strong views on the subject. Some are of the view that it is discrimination to prohibit unmarried partners from receiving the same benefits as married federal employees. Others contend that changing the existing system in this way will open the door to abuse and allow many more participants to receive benefits when they should not be entitled to do so. Some also argue that the change would be a way to endorse a gay lifestyle and that the change should not be implemented for this reason.

A majority of readers were against the proposed change.

Here is a summary of the poll results:

1. Do you favor legislation to allow unmarried federal employees to apply for health, dental and vision insurance, retirement and other benefits for their domestic partners? Total Responses Percentage Grand Total
yes 623 45% 1393
no 725 52% 1393
undecided 45 3% 1393

Here is a small sample of the comments sent in by readers on this issue. These are typical comments from readers out of the hundreds of comments that were submitted.

A labor and employee relations specialist with DHS in Dallas wrote: "The costs of group insurance are based on the number of claims filed corporately by the group. There need to be legitimate restrictions on who the group participants can be in order to hold down the costs of the insurance. Opening the benefit to anyone who comes along wanting to be included puts all current group participants at risk of increasing costs and forces everyone in the group to support (through insurance premiums) lifestyles that they believe to be unhealthy."

An engineer with the Dept. of Energy had this to say: "I find it interesting that this proposal and survey is coming out the same week as an article on increaased health costs for retired military personnel). The proposal would increase costs for current federal employees as well. More important, the Constitution says we are to "promote the general welfare". In 1989 the Centers for Disease Control released a study showing that open homosexuals died 12 years earlier than the general public. Providing health benefits to domestic partners will likely increase homosexual living, thereby increasing deaths. By reducing general welfare, it violates the Constitution, while being just plain wrong."

A manager with SSA in Birmingham, Alabama says that all benefits should be restricted to married partners: "If a couple chooses not to go through a marrage ceremony or if the ceremony is prohibited by either state or federal law, then they should not be able to participate in programs set aside for legal partners."

A retired accounting officer formerly with the Air Force in Ogden, Utah commented: "Absolutely not. No taxpayer dollars to support homosexuals. Moreover, homosexual behaviour is not acceptable and is distroying this country.

"An electrical engineer with the Corps of Engineers in San Diego, CA sees a moral issue at stake in the proposed legislation: "The federal government (or other organizations for that matter) should not be in the business of sanctioning immoral behavior."

An agriculture specialist with Customs and Border Protection sees the potential for widespread abuse: "Without a binding contract (Marriage) the system would be left open to abuse. Imagine if the "partner" was simply a ruse to allow critically ill persons access to health benefits or the "partner" of an aged retiree was a twenty something who would be able to draw retirement benefits for a long time. There is only one contract that is acceptable and that is a Marriage Certificate issued by a state government."

A supervisor with USDA in Portland, Oregon says he wants to expand those covered within his family: "Only if I can add my 40 year old son on my insurance. Should not be any difference if it is my son or a domestic partner. If one can be added then the other should be added."

A purchasing agent with HHS in Bethesda, MD says: "I do not support this legislation. I do not believe that this form of coverage should be given. If they cannot marry then they should not be able to cash in on the benefits program."A scientist with Customs and Border Protection in Washington, DC also sees a moral issue at stake: "Our society has regressed far enough. The debauchery must stop. Just say "NO!" "

A program technician with USDA in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas expressed a view similar to several other readers with this remark: "What is happening to wholesome Americans? We are living in end time, read the word which is Jesus Christ. People lovers of themselves. Its all about me, is the mind set."

A property technician with USDA wants a different method of having people receive benefits: "I think if you are going to open it up to a different option it should just be listed as "Self and Other." That way single parent employees could add a child."

And a number of readers had a different perspective and favor the proposed legislation.

A district biologist with the Forest Service wrote: "It is a real shame that over 50% of private companies offer domestic benefits, and many states, counties and cities do also. I know of situations where a same-sex partner had to be "welfare" insurance because the govern’t employed partner could not cover them on their insurance. Allowing this would help take a little burden off taxpayers dollars by getting some domestic partners off of assistance/welfare in insurance. This is long overdue! "

A scientist with EPA in New York City has this perspective: "Why shouldn’t the civil service enter the 21st Century like the private sector has?"

An attorney with the Department of Education in Dallas, TX says: "I would absolutely want to have rights similar to those afforded to people who can marry. I am gay and cannot marry legally."

A federal project officer with the Department of Labor in Chicago thinks the current practice is discrimination: "Let’s move into the 21st century and offer the same benefits for all employees that many U.S. and foreign companies already do. Discrimination is wrong and defenseless and it is time to end it."

A program specialist with the Department of Labor in Washington, DC had a suggestion that was similar to suggestions from a number of other readers: "I checked undecided because I think there should be some sort of indication/proof of long term commitment to the domestic partnership. Otherwise, federal benefits could be paid out to folks that some federal employee met last week and will be out of the employee’s life next month. That would substantial raise the cost of benefits to the majority of feds and for the taxpayers. However, I also know people who have lived together for over 20 years, but never got married, and I think those couples deserve the benefits."

Our thanks to those who participated in this survey and a special thanks to those who took the time to send in their written comments.