Press Room

February 02, 2004


Denial of Marriage Rights May Cost Gay and Lesbian Seniors Tens of Thousands of Dollars

More than One in 10 Same-Sex Couples Include Someone Over 65 Years Old

WASHINGTON - Same-sex couples face tremendous financial burdens in old age due to the denial of their right to marry, according to new research published today by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The greatest risks are to "widows" and "widowers" who are discriminated against in three significant ways - as lifelong relationships are dismissed as not having been families under law.

Unlike married heterosexual couples, surviving gay, lesbian and bisexual partners are denied Social Security survivor benefits, heavily taxed on the inheritance of a partner's retirement account and charged an estate tax even on homes they co-owned with their partners. As a result, this growing population of seniors may be at increased risk of losing their homes in old age.

"Same-sex couples pay the same taxes as heterosexual couples throughout their working lives," said Cheryl Jacques, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "Yet they are denied the same protections when they most need it - in old age and when faced with the death of a family member. That's taxation without compensation."
The report, entitled "The Cost of Marriage Inequality to Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Seniors," was authored by Lisa Bennett, director of HRC's FamilyNet project (, and Gary J. Gates, a demographer with the Urban Institute ( It is based on an analysis of Census 2000 data and federal laws affecting same-sex couples.

More than one in 10 same-sex couples include someone over 65 years old, and nearly one in four include someone over 55 years old, according to the report. The five counties with the greatest number of same-sex couples that include at least one senior: Los Angeles County, Calif. Cook County, Ill., Kings County (Brooklyn), N.Y. Broward County, Fla. and Miami-Dade County, Fla.

Other findings of the HRC Foundation/Urban Institute report: