The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Wednesday passed a bill that will provided benefits to same-sex partners of federal workers by a vote of 8 to 1.

“I believe this legislation is really on the right side of history,” said committee chair and sponsor of the bill Sen. Joseph Lieberman, calling it an extension of “equal pay for equal work.”

GOP senator Susan Collins, a cosponsor of the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act, said the legislation would be a critical recruiting tool in the coming years. “The federal government faces a potential wave of departures in the next few years when approximately 60% of the federal workforce will be eligible for retirement,” she said.

The legislation is now eligible for a full Senate vote, but Lieberman said the bill would not move on the Senate floor until the Office of Personnel Management provided an estimate of savings offsets that would help pay for the measure initially. Lieberman noted the bill represented “a very small percentage” of overall costs for the federal workforce — coming in at an estimated $63 million a year on average over the next 10 years, while all civilian personnel costs for fiscal year 2009 totaled $227.6 billion.

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