Last week President Obama took a bold step when he revealed his support for same-sex marriage. While the president’s feelings about the issue don’t directly influence lawmakers, there has been movement in pushing for legislation that gives same-sex partners the rights and privileges opposite-sex partners enjoy.
The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is drafting legislation that would give employees of the federal government who are in same-sex domestic partnerships the same rights and benefits as their straight, married counterparts. According to the summary of the bill (S. 1910: Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2011): “Same-sex domestic partners of federal employees living together in a committed relationship would be eligible for health benefits, long-term care, Family and Medical Leave, and federal retirement benefits, among others.” Sen. Susan Collins of Maine says this move is “both fair policy and good business practice” arguing that that the private sector is ahead on this front, pointing out that “almost 60 percent of all Fortune 500 companies, one out of three employers, and 50 percent of employers with 5,000 or more workers, provide benefits to domestic partners of their employees.”
And the public sector isn’t the only group that needs to play catch-up. A GOP pollster, Jan van Lohuizen, has urged Republicans to start “evolving” on this issue of equality too. Talking Points Memo reported that the pollster recommended “Republicans express their support for ‘equality under the law as a fundamental principle’ because ‘freedom means freedom for everyone.’ Remarkably, Lohuizen advises Republicans to reframe gay rights as a conservative value.”
But it could take some time for Republicans to take heed of that advice. In an effort to give same-sex equality legislation another chance after it was killed in the Colorado house last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, called for a special session in the House State Affairs Committee to revisit six bills, one of which was a civil union bill.
The House State Affairs Committee will hear and decide on the bill this afternoon. Meanwhile, Rhode Island is ahead of the curve, taking a step toward equality by allotting the same rights to same-sex partners who were legally married in states that currently allow it. The executive order came from Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who said the president’s announcement last Wednesday was “positive momentum” but that he didn’t anticipate legislation supporting gay marriage to pass in Rhode Island this session.
And tonight we’ll dive into the latest on gay marriage the week after the president’s endorsement with Democratic pollster John Whaley and the National Journal’s Alex Roarty reporter Andy Kroll. Be sure and follow us on Facebook and Twitter and tune in tonight at 9/8c only on Current TV.