Today I was honored to speak at a briefing addressing the routine denial of Social Security benefits to same-sex couples and their families. HRC partnered with the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare to co-host this briefing and publish the accompanying report-- “Living Outside the Safety Net: LGBT Families and Social Security.”
Representative Linda Sanchez (D-C) began the briefing, speaking directly to the need for fairness and equal access to Social Security benefits for our families.
LGBT people live in 99.3 percent of all U.S. counties, work in every sector of the economy, and are raising at least 250,000 children every day. These working families have experienced the impact of the current economic downturn alongside the rest of America. However, systemic discrimination coupled with a lack of uniform relationship recognition increases the risk of poverty for same-sex couples, their children, and the growing number of LGBT older adults. Due to this discrimination, LGBT people — especially the elderly — have lower incomes and are less likely to be able to save for retirement or disability.
However, despite a lifetime of contributions to the system, same-sex couples and many of their children are denied the benefits of Social Security. The financial loss felt for each family, regardless of income, is real and significant. Because of this denial, surviving same-sex spouses and their children are too often faced with the financial free-fall that the safety-net benefits of Social Security were designed to prevent. Today’s briefing and report detail these economic losses felt by LGBT families when parent or spouse passes away, becomes disabled, or retires.
The Social Security system was created to prevent our most vulnerable from slipping into poverty after such a loss. However, the system has failed to keep up with the changing face of the American family. At a time when more and more states are formally recognizing same-sex partnerships, the current system fails to provide LGBT families and couples with the protection they need and deserve. The time has come to end this pernicious form of discrimination. Congress must take steps to address these inequalities by ensuring that lawful marriages between same-sex couples are recognized by the federal government, and that LGBT families are equally supported by vital Social Security safeguards.