The nation recently took a long-overdue step forward in the fight for equal rights when President Obama signed a presidential memorandum that puts gay and lesbian federal employees on more equitable footing with their heterosexual co-workers. Partners of gay and lesbian federal employees will now have access to medical centers abroad and can be added to long-term care insurance, while gay and lesbian federal employees will be able to take leave to care for their partners, without fear of job loss.

But current law does not allow the President to confer all of the benefits to gay and lesbian federal employees and their partners that other federal employees and their spouses receive.

That is why I have introduced the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligation Act in each of the last two Congresses. Gay and lesbian federal employees and their partners deserve the same benefits and should have the same obligations as everyone else, not just as a matter of fundamental human decency and fairness, but for the sake of our federal workforce.

Mirroring the general population, an ever-increasing number of federal employees are preparing to retire within the next 10 years. My legislation would give the federal government a chance to compete with the thousands of companies that provide benefits to the partners of their gay and lesbian employees.

President Obama has taken an important step forward and deserves praise for his actions. But, as Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said, the presidential memorandum was “a first step, not a final step.” The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which I chair, will be marking up my legislation soon.