Gerry Studds' partner denied federal pension
“This is maybe a moment of education for Congress. Now they have a death in the congressional family of one of their distinguished members whose spouse is being treated differently than any of their spouses.”
— Gary Buseck, legal director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, on Gerry Studds’ partner being denied benefits because of DOMA
When the first openly gay member of Congress, Gerry Studds, died on Saturday, he left behind a legal spouse, Dean Hara — they married in Massachusetts. However, because of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, the federal benefits normally due to a spouse have been denied to Hara. (Wash Blade):
Hara, unlike the spouses of other members of Congress who have died, won’t be receiving any portion of Studds’ estimated annual $114,337 pension. The 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act blocks the federal government from recognizing the 2004 marriage between Studds and Hara.
Peter Graves, a spokesman for U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which administers the congressional pension program under federal law, said same sex partners are not recognized as spouses for any marriage related benefits.
He said Studds is the first case of its kind as far as the office could determine.
“Our office could not think of a similar situation having occurred,” he said.
This is why a state-by-state proposition regarding marriage will not work.