Rallying for Social Security equality
LOS ANGELES, Calif.--On April 11, 700 people marched to the Social Security Administration office in Hollywood to demand equal Social Security benefits for same-sex couples.
Called "Rock for Equality," the rally and march was organized by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force as part of an effort to launch a campaign "to end bigoted government policies," according to Lorrie L. Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center. "It's time for Obama to live up to his promise to end Social Security discrimination," Jean added.
While everyone has to pay into Social Security, same-sex couples--even those from states that recognize domestic partnerships or same-sex marriage--are denied the benefits that Social Security provides, including spousal retirement benefits, spousal and dependents disability benefit under Social Security Disability Insurance, survivor benefits and death benefits. It is estimated that over $2 billion worth of benefits have been denied to same-sex partners just since 2000.
Nadiyah, a high school teacher, attended the rally with her wife--her first-ever demonstration. "We have three children, and two grandchildren. I'm a public school teacher, and with all the cuts coming down I might not have a job. We are fighting for social security because we are really worried about the future--how will we be able to provide for our family if something happens to one of us?" she asked.
Although the event was for seniors, most of the crowd was well below retirement age, including a busload of high school students who attended. Sixteen-year-old Alex said, "Our teacher was involved in this, and a lot of students signed up to join the protest. It's just not fair for people to be treated like second-class citizens."
Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Linda Sanchez, both in re-election campaigns this year, spoke at the rally in support of introducing legislation that would grant Social Security benefits to same-sex couples. Although both support an end to the Defense of Marriage Act, they said that Social Security equality legislation could be achieved more quickly.