SEIU Takes a Stand For Equality, Against Prop 8, DOMA
by SEIU New Media
SEIU, as part of the Change to Win coalition, took a stand for marriage equality this week, filing two amicus briefs in support of those challenging the constitutionality the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban. Both cases will be argued before the Supreme Court this month.
Pictured to the right is the SEIU legal team who worked on the briefs. (L to R) Juan Lopez, Christine Flack, LaRell Purdie, Elena Medina, Nicole Berner, and Jeremy Greenberg
“SEIU members, just like working people everywhere, believe federal laws should not financially penalize some workers simply because of whom they love and with whom they choose to build their life,” said Valarie Long, International Executive Vice President of SEIU. “These laws deny working people with same-sex spouses the same access to health coverage, Social Security benefits and a host of other protections that working people rely on for economic security. It’s not right.”
The two briefs support the respondents in the cases, asking the Court to uphold the appellate courts’ rulings striking down DOMA and Proposition 8, and argue that laws defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman harm working LGBT people and puts them at a significant economic disadvantage.
Many workplace protections are tied to marital status. Because of DOMA and laws like Proposition 8, only heterosexual married workers are able to fully enjoy them. These protections include access to family health insurance coverage, eligibility to receive Social Security benefits, and access to workers’ compensation protection.
- Healthcare Benefits: Due to DOMA, people in gay and lesbian relationships are more likely to be uninsured than heterosexual couples. DOMA also significantly raises healthcare costs for same-sex couples because they can’t take advantage of federal tax benefits. For example, gay and lesbian couples can’t use pre-tax flexible spending accounts or tax deductions for their partner’s health premiums.
- Social Security and Other Retirement Benefits: Gay and lesbian married employees and retirees are denied Social Security survivor benefits. They cannot receive tax benefits for contributing to a retirement account for an out-of-work spouse. It’s difficult for a same-sex partner to qualify as a payee for a pension plan. The list goes one. Retirement security is a concern for all working people. The federal government’s failure to recognize same-sex unions is detrimental to the long-term economic well-being of gay and lesbian couples, not to mention discriminatory.
- Workers’ Compensation and Other Federal Programs: It’s not just health care and retirement benefits. There are other programs, such as a specialized federal workers’ compensation program that provides a lump sum death benefit for workers who die or on the job. Same-sex partners are not eligible to receive this benefit, nor are they eligible to receive death or survivor benefits under the Federal Employee Retirement System or the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act.