CommunityPam's House Blend

Katrina exposes same-sex couples' second-class status

As Bill Clinton pals around with the Bushes and signs on to participate in the fundraising/relief effort BushClintonKatrinaFund.com, maybe Bill needs to take a look back at what he did in his Administration. He signed the Federal Defense of Marriage Act back in 1996, and that has now crippled gay and lesbian couples in their attempts to get their lives together after the storm.

And as far as the Chimperor goes, well we all know the sh*tstorm of craven political homobigotry that he, Karl and Kenny Mehlman stirred up in the last election, resulting in a rash of those state marriage amendments that just compound the horror for gay and lesbian victims of Katrina in the affected states.

Looking at the Katrina Fund’s FAQ, I don’t see any information about whether money raised will be available to gay families, but given the money will be disbursed by the governors of three states that discriminate, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

We pay taxes, we are helping to pay for the recovery, but as gay and lesbian Americans, our relationships are officially denied and discriminated against in our darkest hour by our government. Facts from 365gay.com:

Recovering from the devastation of hurricane Katrina may be particularly difficult for same-sex couples who are not recognized in any of the three states directly hit by the storm or in those states where refugees have fled.

* The Federal Defense of Marriage Act prevents FEMA from providing any relief in the form of family benefits to same-sex couples. The laws also will directly impact gay and lesbian families where one partner has died as a result of the hurricane.

* Federal DOMA bars Social Security survivor benefits. State benefits would also be denied.

* Louisiana has a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and prevents the state from recognizing any legal status for common-law relationships, domestic partnerships or civil unions.

* Mississippi and Alabama both have defense of marriage acts which also deny rights to gay and lesbian couples.

* Should the family home be in the name of the deceased partner the survivor would have no rights.

* Any insurance payouts could go to the estate of the deceased and if there is no will would go to the closest blood relative.

* In cases where one partner is hospitalized the other partner would not be guaranteed visitation rights or any say in medical care.

* If the deceased partner were the birth or adoptive parent of the couple’s children those children could be removed from the care of the other parent and placed in foster care.

* Surviving same-sex partners even could be denied any say in funeral or burial decisions.

* Even in those cases where couples had legal documents such as living wills, powers of attorney or other agreements that could be valid in the states in which they were prepared and notarized there is no guarantee they would be honored in states where survivors were relocated.

I posted about this yesterday, but, given this story, I thought I’d post the info again.

The National Youth Advocacy Coalition, a nationwide organization which works on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans youth, is coordinating an effort in the wake of hurricane Katrina, to establish a fund to assist LGBT youth and families. The national fund, will help provide direct services — especially in areas where refugees are heading — to many LGBT youth and their families that will be displaced as a result of the tragedy.

Groups in the coalition include the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, Mautner Project: The National Lesbian Health Organization, National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) , and Pride at Work.

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Resources from Lambda Legal:

Marriage advisories and warnings

* Thinking of Getting Married in Canada?
Joint Advisory From Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund, National Center for Lesbian Rights, ACLU Lesbian & Gay Rights Project, and Freedom to Marry – June 2003

* Decisions, Decisions…
Deciding Whether To Get Married In Canada or Massachusetts

* We Got Married in Canada, What’s Next?
An Action Guide for Newlyweds

Advanced Planning (Wills and Life Planning Documents)

*What Are You Waiting For?
Write a will!

Lambda Legal’s Help Desk: Here you can find phone numbers to call about discrimination, and your rights.

Lambda’s Legal Help Desk staff respond directly to members of our communit(ies) who are seeking legal information and assistance with discrimination related to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and HIV status. To the extent that our resources and priorities allow, Lambda Legal takes on legal representation of callers whose situations present impact litigation issues; for many others, Lambda Legal provides leads to other organizations and practical information that might help them address their problems. We also provide a list of suggested questions to ask a prospective attorney.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding