Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
by Bob Roehr
WASHINGTON, DC –
Gay and lesbian relationships of federal employees would be treated similarly to marriage under legislation introduced on Dec. 19 by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Gordon Smith (R-Oregon) and 19 cosponsors. The bill is called the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act of 2007.
“It’s time for the federal government to catch up with the private sector, not to just set an example, but so that it can compete for the most qualified employees and ensure that all of our public servants receive fair and equitable treatment,” said Lieberman. “It makes good economic and policy sense, and it is the right thing to do.”
“The federal government should be leading the way rather than following when it comes to providing benefits,” said Smith. “Rights and benefits must be afforded to all employees equally. This bill corrects the current inequity.”
The legislation allows same-sex domestic partners to take advantage of health, retirement, and other benefits associated with federal employment. It also extends restrictions such as anti-nepotism and financial disclosure rules, which now apply only to legal spouses.
A companion bill was introduced in the House under the lead sponsorship of Democrats Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), and Republicans Tom Davis (R-Virg.) and Chris Shays (R-Conn.). It has 35 additional cosponsors. Similar legislation previously has been introduces in both chambers.
The Human Rights Campaign has pressed for the legislation. It noted that a majority of the Fortune 500 companies, the largest in the nation, provide domestic partner benefits to their employees.
Repeal of legal provisions barring persons who are HIV-positive from entering the country was introduced in the Senate on December 14 by John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Gordon Smith (R-Oregon). It would reform the Immigration and Nationalities Act.
“It’s incredible that the federal government still tolerates a ban that not only restricts AIDS experts with the disease but also refugees who are seeking asylum in our country,” said Kerry. “My legislation would end this draconian law.”
Only a dozen other countries have similar restrictions, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Libya, and Sudan. China recently changed its policy.
On World AIDS Day 2006, President George W. Bush said he would modify administration of the law to make it easier for persons to get an exemption to enter the country. However government lawyers concluded that the law gave them little flexibility. Some advocates have argued that recent modifications proposed by the Department of Homeland Security are even worse than what currently exists.
Much of the processing of visas at U.S. consulates is handled by local employees and an applicant disclosing their HIV status when seeking a visa waiver opens up the possibility that the information may spread and put them at risk for discrimination in their own country. Persons are not allowed to apply for a work permit or asylum either.
“What’s more, it is all left to the discretion of the consular officers who likely do not have the medical knowledge to make these decisions [of granting a waiver]. No guidelines are given on how to make these determinations and there is no appeal process whatsoever,” said Kerry.
“Three cheers for Senators Gordon Smith and John Kerry. They have introduced a bill that will finally drag the US out of the Jesse Helms era,” pundit Andrew Sullivan wrote on his blog. “The trouble has always been the lack of an active constituency in the U.S. to get rid of this law.” The law has barred the British Sullivan from becoming an American citizen.
“This is also a great legacy for the Bush administration – and its AIDS commission, Mark Dybul – as a sign for the way the mainstream right has gone from paranoia to reason and compassion on HIV and AIDS,” he wrote.