Domestic Partners Benefits: Readers’ Opinions Change Over Time

The issue of domestic partner benefits is controversial as indicated by the comments sent in by our readers. But in our most recent survey, the outcome is different than it was last year.

Federal employee benefits for domestic partners is an issue that generates strong opinions on all sides of the issue–and there are apparently numerous opinion as you can see from the sampling of comments that are below.

There was also a diversity of opinion when we asked this same question back in 2006. But, over the past three years, there has apparently been a softening of opinion. At that time, 53% of readers who responded were opposed. This year, the results were different. Here is a summary:

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 727 50% 1466
No 698 48% 1466
Undecided 41 3% 1466

Those in favor of the proposal often referred to “fairness,” “basic rights” or similar terms. Those opposed referred to a lack of morality, the cost of expanding federal employee benefits to domestic partners, or to problems with restricting the proposal to a small number of people once this approach is taken to expanding employee benefits.

Here is a sampling of the hundreds of comments sent in by readers. 

An appeals and litigation specialist with the Forest Service in Milwaukee wrote: “We are asking for some basic rights. At least discussing it is something that the Obama Administration is willing to do. I am glad you are willing to address this issue at”

An acquisitions specialist from Norfolk, VA had this comment: “I feel if you open up this benefit to them, it should be open to adult children, grandchildren, etc. What makes them (sic) unmarried couples special?”

A retired FAA employee from Wisconsin: “I think that whether talking about gay or heterosexual partners, they should be eligible for all federal benefits whether working or retired. I cannot give survivor benefits to my partner and he cannot to me and we are heterosexual.”

A social insurance specialist from SSA in Baltimore, MD: “I can only say it is about time this was opened up. This will not only affect gay partners but will also affect those of us who have long committed relationship who have just chosen not to marry for our own personal reasons. It is time for our society to grow up. Everyone is different in some way.”

A Forest Service supervisor from Portland, OR wants to expand the awarding of federal employee benefits: “If unmarried federal employees get the benefits then my children and grandchildren should be included under my plan.”

A supervisory contract specialist with the FAA in Chicago: “It is the only fair thing to do. The Federal Government must lead the way on this important civil rights initiative. Individual religious views have no place in a Government workplace or in the establishment of Government policy.”

An IT specialist from Norfolk thinks this should not be an issue but it isn’t clear which perspective he prefers: “Come on, give me a break… Is this even an issue?”

An HR specialist with the Army in Vicksburg, MS is opposed to this change: “Domestic partner does not equal married spouse. We are well down the slippery slope.”

 An attorney with the Office of Special Counsel in San Francisco: “Thank you for reporting on this important issue in a fair and unbiased manner. Major Fortune 500 companies provide domestic partner benefits to their employees, its about time the Feds did too.”

A chaplain with the VA in Muskogee, OK sees problems if benefits are expanded: “What if a person decides that hey want to have two or three “domestic partners” at the same time. Would they all be able to apply for benefits?”

A HR specialist with the IRS in Kansas City, MO also sees future problems arising from this issue: “People who are not married seem to change partners a lot. I would think this Act would get very complicated. Who would decide what a “committed” relationship is? How long do you have to be in the relationship? Too many “ifs” with this one.”

A retired SSA employee from Wilkes-Barre, PA sees a moral issue that should be considered: “Health insurance should not be given to domestic partners. We need to bring back morality to your country.”

A civil engineer with the Forest Service says the proposal regarding benefits for domestic partners is symbolic and that we are becoming the Roman Empire: “It is becoming very apparent that the election of our current president was a huge mistake. The government and nation has started down a path that will lead to untold problems. We never seem to learn from history- ie Roman Empire.”

A civil engineer with the Corps of Engineers in Spokane, WA has a similar view: “I would not advocate any legislation that would further weaken the foundations of our culture… meaning, the marriage commitment & the family cell.”

An accountant with the HHS in Rockville, MD wants restrictions on the distribution of benefits: “Yes only if there is a legal civil union contract – so that if the couple separates, it must go through the same process as a divorce and then the benefits cease.”

A district conservationist from the USDA in Minnesota sees a problem: “If same-sex marriages are not allowed, why should they get the benefits of a marriage.”

A revenue agent with the IRS in Phoenix, AZ sees the outcome as being inevitable: “While I don’t approve of domestic partner benefits, I see them becoming reality within the next 5 years.”

 A bank examiner with the OCC in Los Angeles says: “Domestic Partners isn’t just a gay issue, I have many heterosexual associates that are living in such arrangements and can’t wait for this legislation to become law.”

An employee relations specialist with the Air Force in Florida thinks marriage should be an important aspect of this issue: “This is too hard to keep up with. People change partners like they change shirts. It is more difficult to get out of a marriage.”

A personnel manager with DoD in Indiana has a strong opinion: “Absolutely not. It would be a recipe for complete disaster not only in the FEHB and CSRS/FERS programs put also for society at large.”

An emergency management specialist with the CDC in Atlanta does not like the moral or tax implications: “I am morally opposed to this and I’ll have to pay for it through my taxes. No thank you.”

A senior service fellow with the CDC in Atlanta also has a strong opinion: “Gay couples ARE MARRIED. While our legal system and mainstream churches do not recognize the marriage, it is still valid. Many of my gay and lesbian friends have been in committed relationships for 10 – 20 years. I consider them to be married couples, and so do they.”

Or thanks to all readers who took the time to vote in this recent survey and a special thanks to those who took the time to send in their written views.