Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Historic Discrimination

For the first time in our nation's history, the federal government is denying death benefits to the spouse of a congressman because he is gay. Representative Gerry Studds made history as the first openly gay member of congress. He passed away last Saturday at the age of 69.

Gerry was legally married to his partner Dean Hara in May of 2004. When a member of Congress dies,
the surviving spouse collects more than half of the pension for the remainder of their lives. Gerry's husband will get nothing. Dean will not be receiving any portion of his husband's estimated annual $114,337 pension because he is gay.

"A gay spouse will not receive any sort of pension or annuity or anything like that," said Chad Cowan, a spokesperson for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which administers the congressional pension program.

The 1996 federal Defensive of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, blocks the federal government from recognizing the legal marriage between Gerry Studds and Dean Hara.

Interestingly, Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) who pled guilty last week to conspiracy charges and faces up to 10 years in prison for taking bribes will receive about $29,000 a year from his pension for the rest of his life - even while he is in prison.


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