The Washington Blade is reporting on a new bill making its way through congress, HR 4609, The Social Security Equality Act introduced by Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.). The Bill would help to give same-sex couples greater access to their spouses social security benefits that they are currently denied. From The Blade:
Four types of Social Security benefits are denied to same-sex couples: spousal retirement benefits after one spouse retires; disability benefits if one spouse becomes disabled; survivor’s benefits, which allow surviving spouses to claim either their own Social Security benefit or an amount equal to the compensation that would have been afforded to their deceased spouse; and the death benefit, which provides for burial expenses.
The denial of these benefites have real consequences for LGBT couples, as Alice Herman, a spokesperson from the grassroots group “Rock For Equality” explained at a rally for the Bill:
“When [my partner] died, much to my amazement, Social Security denied me the death benefit, then Social Security refused to provide me with the survivor’s benefit,” Herman said. “These denials came even though we were legally married. They dismissed our 45 together, our 45 years of love and commitment, our 45 years of contributing to society as meaningless.”
Had she been able to receive these benefits, Herman said she would have been able to stay in her home. However, she was forced to find another place to live because the only other option would be living in her car.
In a time when gay marriage equality is being voted on and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) still exists, this is just another injustice to LGBT Americans and their relationships. Being denied equality effects our community in ways that may not be obvious to those who view our relationships as just something that happens in the bedroom. Outside of that it has real economic, social and psychological effects for real people.