Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Targeting DOMA

As the time of this posting, same-sex marriage is only legal in two U.S. states - Massachusetts and Connecticut (the California Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments on overturning anti-gay Prop 8 later this week on March 5th).

Unfortunately no matter where a same-sex couple lives, the federal government does not recognize any same-sex marriage benefits due to the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" of 1996. But now, according to The New York Times, "The legal advocacy group that successfully argued for sex-same marriage in Massachusetts intends to file suit... on Tuesday seeking some federal benefits for spouses in such marriages."

"The plaintiffs in the suit include eight couples and three widowers, all of whom were married in Massachusetts after the state began allowing same-sex marriages in 2004. All have applied for federal benefits, Ms. Bonauto said, but have been denied because the federal government does not recognize their marriages."

Take the case of Herbert Burtis, 78, who lost his legal spouse last year. He would be entitled to "about $700 a month in Social Security survivor benefits" if his marriage had been heterosexual.

“Nobody else has to go through that begging to be considered equal to other married people,” said Mr. Burtis, who married in 2004 but was with his partner for more than 60 years.

The Times adds, "Although federal courts have heard other challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act... this is the first in which plaintiffs who were married in their state of residence applied for federal benefits and were denied them."

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