BY Kerry Eleveld
November 18 2009 9:10 PM ET
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Wednesday voted 23-12 to pass the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act, which would extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal government workers.
The bill is now likely to move to a full House floor vote, which many anticipate could take place before the end of the year.
“Last I talked to the majority leader who sets the floor schedule, he was hopeful that it could get fairly prompt attention by the full House,” said out congresswoman Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who is the lead sponsor of the bill in the House.
Debate over the bill split along party lines with Democrats emphasizing the concepts of fairness and equality and Republicans objecting to the legislation on the basis that it would begin to redefine marriage or would create special rights for LGBT people.
GOP representative Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska opened his statement by saying that he deplored any form of discrimination.
“Ironically, this bill seems to put one group of persons over another,” Fortenberry said. “The legislation defines domestic partners in an open-ended and ambiguous manner and creates a privileged class of persons of the same sex.”
But Democratic representative Danny Davis of Illinois took exception to Fortenberry’s characterization.
“It is unsettling to me to think that because of the way that someone might feel, the way they might act, or the way they might behave — circumstances that they have no control over — that the rest of us would sit in some kind of judgment to deny them the very things that we would want for ourselves,” Davis said.