Tag Archives: Marriage

Trans People, Marriage, and Social Security

social security cardAfter sustained lobbying by the National Center for Transgender Equality and others and after Robina Asti’s public statement (see http://www.grayprideparade.com/2014/01/29/i-was-shocked-i-was-shamed/), the Social Security Administration has finally issued guidance telling staff to automatically assume that most marriages involving transgender people are valid.

Of course, given the mish-mash we currently have with some states refusing to recognize other states’ “same-sex” marriages and some states’ bad decisions concerning the legal gender of transgender people, the guidance is complicated.  The guidance now requires Social Security staff to determine where the marriage was performed and if the sex change took place before or after the marriage.  If the sex change took place before the marriage and the transgender person currently lives in (or died in) American Samoa, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Texas, or the Virgin Islands, a legal opinion about the validity of the marriage is still required.  Otherwise, marriages involving transgender people are to be treated under existing rules for opposite-sex and same-sex marriages, bypassing the current procedure of referring all marriages involving transgender people to legal counsel.

The actual bureaucratic memo is available at https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/public/reference.nsf/links/03252014040307PM  (Trigger warning: in discussing sample cases, the memo uses typical bureaucratizee about applicants “alleging” personal facts.)

Carroll Baker Was Maid of Honor

Perkins and SuraciIn yet another example of how far (and quickly!) the world has moved on LGBT issues, the New York Times recently ran a long profile of Tony Perkins and Dr. Patrick Joseph Suraci on the occasion of the marriage.

Entitled, “When May Catches Up to December,” the profile explains how the two, now 54 and 77, originally met in 1986.  The age difference was part of what kept them in an on-again, off-again status, but that began to change in 2005, when the two reconnected after having lost touch for nearly three years.  The final decision point came in October 2012, when Dr. Suraci underwent radical surgery and Mr. Perkins thought, “Oh, my God, Patrick is not immortal.  This isn’t something I can play with.”

The couple married on February 20.  The actress Carroll Baker, a long-time friend of Dr. Suraci, served as their Maid of Honor.  You can read the whole profile at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/09/fashion/weddings/when-may-catches-up-to-december.html?_r=0

“I Was Shocked, I Was Shamed”

Robina Asti 92 yo transwomanThat’s how Robina Asti, 92, described her response when the Social Security Administration denied her benefits as the widow of Norwood Patton.

Although Robina transitioned genders decades before her marriage to Patton in 2004, the Social Security Administration ruled her marriage wasn’t valid when it was entered into because “she was not legally a woman,” and so denied her request.

While the case itself is important enough to write about, what is really remarkable is the 7-1/2 minute video Lambda Legal made of Robina.  This lovely portrait beautifully highlights her love of flying as well as her occupational and romantic history.  She says, “I have lived a very private life, but the SSA is forcing me to speak out.  I don’t want other people to have to experience this.”

Lambda Legal is representing her in her struggle with the Social Security Administration, an effort that will benefit many, many marriages involving trans people and their partners when it is — as it inevitably must be — won.  In the meantime, however, Robina and Lambda Legal deserve many thanks for a really remarkable oral history.  Make sure you check it out:  http://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20140129_robina-asti-92-year-old-transgender-widow

Veterans Home Hosts Gay Marriage

gay vets marriageThe Chula Vista (California) Veterans Home hosted its first gay marriage this past week.

John Banvard, 95 and a World War II veteran, married his partner of 20 years, Gerard Nadeau, 67, who served in Vietnam, at their home of three years, the Chula Vista Veterans Home.

Fox 5 reported, “Many of the couple’s friends who live at the veteran’s home attended the small and simple ceremony.”  However, the facility also held a town hall meeting prior to the ceremony “to address concerns from other residents.”

You can read the article and see a short video at http://fox5sandiego.com/2013/09/12/senior-facility-holds-first-ever-gay-wedding/#axzz2f53QhYTe

Same-Sex Military Couples Gain Benefits

MilitaryKissAnd another one falls!

A California judge has ruled that the portion of the U.S. Code governing veterans benefits is unconstitutional and unenforceable in its definition of marriage, which excludes same-sex couples.

The ruling will enable same-sex military couples to access benefits available to other married couples.

The article is available at http://www.buzzfeed.com/chrisgeidner/federal-judge-strikes-down-law-barring-same-sex-couples-from

Advocate Covers Old Queers!

GeorgeTakeiThis week the Advocate has — count ’em! — THREE articles on old LGBT people!

“Prime Timers: A New Age for Activism” profiles 25 LGBT people aged 65 and older, including large photos of each.  The list is heavy on actors and authors, most of whom have been out as LGBT issues for decades, but also contains some long-time activists and a few who became out and/or active only after passing what’s thought of in the U.S. as “retirement age.”

“9 Tales of Young Love and Old Memories” interviews nine residents of Triangle Square, an LGBT-focused housing project in Los Angeles operated by Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing, all of whom discuss their “first love.”  Some first loves were fleeting, but others lasted decades.

In the hard news category is “HHS Offers Benefits, Joint Placement to Married LGBT Seniors on Medicare.”  This article reports on a new Department of Health and Human Services ruling that legally married LGBT elders on Medicare will be eligible for equal benefits and joint placement in nursing homes around the country, regardless of whether or not they are currently living in a state that recognizes their marriage.

http://www.advocate.com/society/people/2013/08/27/prime-timers-new-age-activism

http://www.advocate.com/print/society/people/2013/08/29/lgbt-seniors-share-9-tales-young-love

http://www.advocate.com/print/health/2013/08/29/hhs-offers-benefits-joint-placement-married-lgbt-seniors-medicare-0

An Ally’s Guide to LGBT Issues

Ally's GuideTomorrow the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions is scheduled to take up — and expected to send on to the full Senate — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a long-pending bill that would outlaw employment discrimination against LGBT people.

In honor of this new ENDA push, we dusted off our copy of “An Ally’s Guide to Issues Facing LGBT Americans,” a guide that was collaboratively produced by a number of LGBT organizations.  It addresses what some would call “The Gay Agenda,” giving data and background on the following LGBT wish list: Continue reading

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/

Keep on Growing and Learning

Edie Windsor3I’ll admit it: I love Edie Windsor, the woman who is standing up in the Supreme Court on behalf of same-sex marriage.  So I’d want to call your attention to another article about her no matter what (especially one that has a spiffy new picture of her!).

But what struck me even more about this article is how it shows how committed Edie is to continuing to learn and grow.  It ends with this exchange:

“Did you participate in the Dyke March the day before gay pride?”

“Well, I loved it, I thought it was great.  I sang with them.  Some went topless.  I used to wish they would put on clothes.  I was once saying something about disliking some of the extreme stuff to a straight friend, and she said, ‘Edie, somebody has to keep pushing the envelope.’  I said: ‘I think you’re right.  I apologize for everything I thought.”

You can read the whole interview at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/magazine/edith-windsor-takes-back-what-she-said-about-topless-gay-activists.html?ref=magazine&_r=0

Teaching Love

Del ThusiusThey met in 1965, when David Richard was assigned as a student teacher to Del Thusius in Portage, Wisconsin.  It was love at first sight.

Their life partnership ended on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court was debating gay marriage, when Thusius died in a Plainwell nursing home at the age of 85.  In between, they loved, taught in the same school district, lived together…and entered places separately.  “One of us would go in and the other would stand behind the door for a minute and then walk in,” Reichard recalled.

They also evolved.  For much of his life, Thusius struggled with his sexual orientation.  Yet on Reichard’s most recent birthday, Thusius gave him a very special gift: a wedding ring.

You can read more at http://www.mlive.com/opinion/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2013/03/julie_mack_love_story_of_two_r.html