Washington, D.C. - Today Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, voted for the Conference Report for the District of Columbia Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2944). The bill ends a long-time Congressional practice of prohibiting the District from implementing its domestic partner benefit program. It passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 302-84.
I rise in support of this conference report. I would like to commend Chairman Knollenberg and Ranking Member Fattah for their leadership and their work for the people of the District of Columbia. By allowing the District to finally implement its domestic partner benefit program, they have achieved something in this bill that has been elusive for nearly ten years.
The progress made today is long overdue. Gay and Lesbian Americans in the District and across the country make significant contributions to our society, and their relationships should be treated with respect in the community and in the workplace. Over 4,200 employers around the country, including a third of the Fortune 500, have recognized this by establishing domestic partnership programs.
The most recent census found that there are 3,678 unmarried gay and lesbian partner households, and, in addition, 11,208 unmarried heterosexual households in the District. These families pay taxes just like everybody else in the District of Columbia. It was wrong to deny them the basic, modest set of benefits passed by the City Council in 1992.
The benefits provided in this bill have long been available to married couples in the District, but same-sex partners in committed relationships have been prevented from purchasing health insurance for each other, visiting each other in the hospital, and taking the bereavement leave necessary to make funeral arrangements when one of them passes away. These are basic, fundamental health care rights that all Americans should enjoy regardless of sexual orientation. Implementation of the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act puts an end to these discriminatory practices, and will benefit the District greatly by protecting the well being of many of its citizens.
Respect for the contributions of all communities and individuals makes a city great. The citizens of San Francisco and the District of Columbia understand this. I am pleased that respect for diversity is growing in Congress as well.
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