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‘Social Security Equality Act of 2012’ introduced, aims to end discrimination same-sex couples face in receiving Social Security benefits

April 26, 2012

The “Social Security Equality Act of 2012,” which seeks to end the discrimination same-sex couples face with respect to Social Security benefits, was introduced by U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) and includes 90 House co-sponsors.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey spoke at today’s Capitol Hill press conference, along with representatives from the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) and AIDS Community Action Foundation. Actors George Takei and Hal Sparks also spoke.

Statement by Rea Carey, executive director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

We hear far too many painful stories of loving, committed same-sex couples left anxious and vulnerable because the federal government refuses to recognize their relationships — including their legal marriages. This stretches to Social Security, which should offer some security to Americans, particularly in their time of need, as when a spouse dies.

Social Security survivor benefits help to keep widows and widowers from falling into poverty following the loss of their loved one. If you are a married opposite-sex couple and your spouse passes away, you are covered. This is not so for married same-sex couples, who continue to face discrimination by their own government because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. The Social Security Equality Act would help give them the financial security they have so far been denied and so desperately need.

Families like Mina and Sharon, who have known each other since 1945, when they were children growing up on the same street in Cleveland, Ohio. They fell in love and have built a life together as a committed couple for over 40 years. Mina and Sharon, now in their 70s, are legally married in California but their relationship remains invisible in the eyes of the federal government. This means one of them would be denied Social Security survivor and spousal benefits when the other died. Grieving the loss of a spouse is traumatic enough without inflicting the indignity of your government saying it doesn’t recognize your love. No one should have to suffer that way.

Providing survivor benefits, spousal benefits and death benefits is a matter of fairness. It would help keep same-sex families out of poverty and allow for dignity as they age. We thank Representative Sanchez and the other members of the House who have stood up today on behalf of LGBT families across the country. We urge the House leadership to act on this bill.

You can also take action today to urge Congress to pass the Respect for Marriage Act.

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