Tag Archives: DOMA

Married LGBT Federal Retirees Need to Act

federal-retirementDominoes continue to fall as a result of last week’s Supreme Court ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, with one of the latest being a memo from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that has great relevance to federal retirees who have a legal marriage.

The 6/28/2013 memo, available at http://www.chcoc.gov/transmittals/TransmittalDetails.aspx?TransmittalID=5700, is entitled, “Guidance on the Extension of Benefits to Married Gay and Lesbian Federal Employees, Annuitants, and Their Families.”

Of critical importance are the following two deadlines.

Annuitants (and employees) have only until August 26, 2013, to add their spouses to their health insurance under the FEHB program.  (Other additions can be made during annual Open Seasons.)

Annuitants have until June 26, 2015 to inform the Office of Personnel Management “that they have a legal marriage that now qualifies for recognition and elect any changes to their retirement benefits based on their recognized marital status.”  OPM will be issuing further guidance to help retirees figure out if this change makes financial sense for their situation, since providing benefits to a surviving spouse “will likely result in a deduction to the monthly annuity that the retiree currently receives.”

Now What? Married LGBT Elders After DOMA

Edith WindsorToday the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), meaning that federal benefits must be made available to legally married same-sex couples.

Seems simple and straight-forward, right?  Unfortunately, it’s not.  Take two of the programs most important to LGBT elders — Social Security and Medicare.  Both of these programs base their marriage eligibility criteria on the law of the state where the person lives at the time of filing for benefits.  This means that if Jane and Kathy married in Vermont (where their marriage was legal) but they actually reside in Tennessee (where their marriage is not recognized), the federal government still won’t recognize their marriage for Social Security and Medicare purposes.

It will take some time to sort out all the implications of today’s rulings, and even more time to correct some of the injustices that will remain.  In the meantime, a coalition of LGBT groups has put out a very useful series of fact sheets that individuals and advocates should review before they seek out personal legal assistance from a qualified attorney.

Social Security Spousal and Family Protections: http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/release_materials/Post-DOMA_FSS_Social-Security_v2.pdf

Medicare Spousal Protections:  http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/release_materials/Post-DOMA_Medicare_v2.pdf

Other post-DOMA fact sheets:  http://thetaskforceblog.org/2013/06/26/heres-almost-everything-you-need-to-know-now-that-doma-is-dead/

Meet the Face of Gay Marriage: Edie Windsor

At 83, carefully coiffed, impeccably turned out, sunny, and very much in love, Edie Windsor is going to be our representative before the Supreme Court on March 27 when it hears her case challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Unfortunately, Edie will go without her beloved Thea Spyer, her partner since the early 60s, who died in 2009.  It was her death that brought Edie face-to-face with DOMA.  Although Edie and Thea married in Canada in 2007, the U.S. federal government said they were legal strangers, and charged Edie 50% tax on everything Thea had given her over 40 years.  The bill came to over $350,000, and Edie sued.  It is her case the Supreme Court chose when asked to choose among multiple cases challenging the constitutionality of DOMA.

“The idea that I might be a piece of history blows my mind.  I think it’s kind of wonderful that I’m getting my chance to really ask for justice, and I suspect I’ll get it.  I’m still that little kid from the civics class.  And I think they’re going to rule in our favor because I think that’s just.”

For a long article on Edie and Thea, including how their story illustrates and intersects with LGBT history in this country, go to http://www.buzzfeed.com/chrisgeidner/meet-the-hero-of-the-marriage-equality-movement

2012 Genny Awards Announced

Stu Maddux, the producer of the acclaimed LGBT aging documentary, Gen Silent, has issued his 2012 Genny Awards to recognize the year’s most important changes towards a greater quality of life for LGBT older people.

From his website (http://stumaddux.com/gen_silent_Gennys_Ballot.html?utm_source=CONTACT+FORMS+AS+OF+120412&utm_campaign=b1d0c2bfa3-Gennys_Announcement_12_26_2012&utm_medium=email) Continue reading

New York Widow Defeats Federal Law

Edith Windsor, 83, widow of Thea Spyer, this week defeated the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

When her partner of 42 years died in 2009, two years after the two had married in Canada, the federal government, citing DOMA, billed her $363,053.  New York State followed suit, requiring taxes of $200,000.  Much of the “inheritance” Ms. Windsor was paying taxes on were the house she and Thea had bought for $35,000 and the apartment they’d bought for $300,000: both had grown considerably in their worth in the decades they’d owned them.  Had she and Thea been a heterosexual married couple, she would have been allowed to take full posession of their homes without paying a dime in taxes.

This week, in one of several cases nationwide challenging the constitutionality of DOMA, Ms. Windsor won her case.  It is expected that the Supreme Court will be asked to review one or all of those lower court decisions that DOMA is unconstitutional.  To read more about Ms. Windsor, you can see a New York Times article at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/08/nyregion/woman-says-same-sex-marriage-bias-cost-her-over-500000.html?_r=3&smid=fb-share

LGBT Elders: 2011 Achievements In Review

The following is the 2011 “Gennys,” awarded by the people behind Gen Silent: Continue reading

Edie and Thea Conquer Washington

What does an 81-year-old lesbian widow have to do with President Obama?  Her lawsuit to try to recover $353,053 that the federal government took from her in estate taxes when her spouse died was cited as one of the reasons the Obama Administration announced on February 23 that it will not continue defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) from charges of unconstitutionality.

Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer first met in 1963.  Their love story is breathtakingly portrayed in the video “Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement,” (available at http://www.breakingglasspictures.com/index.php?option=com_jmovies&Itemid=2&task=detail&id=73).  The film follows them for several years near the end of Thea’s life, and includes footage of their Canadian wedding in 2007, when they were 77 and 75. 

  Continue reading