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Graphics showing variety of family constructions
The economic consequences of marriage discrimination for the partners are pretty well known. In fact, that's the nominal reason Edie Windsor sued to have DOMA overturned; when her wife, Thea Spyer, died in 2009, Windsor got a $363,000 federal estate tax bill. Had her spouse been a man, she wouldn't have had to pay that tax. Of course, equality is Windsor's primary goal, but equality for LGBT families does mean financial equality.

That goes for the children, too. Specifically, what happens to a child when a parent dies, just like Paul Ryan's father, or becomes disabled? Unlike Paul Ryan, whose survivor benefits made sure he could finish college, the child of a lesbian or gay parent wouldn't be eligible for Social Security survivor benefits, if that parent wasn't the legally recognized one. While some states allow two-parent adoption, or the spouse of a biological parent to adopt, as far as the federal government is concerned, there's only one parent. If the not-legal parent is the primary breadwinner and dies or becomes disabled, the kid is out of luck.

The Human Rights Campaign and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare have released a report quantifying the loss of income an LGBT family could face.

The average amount a child receives upon the death of a parent is $785 per month, or $330 per month if the parent becomes disabled. A child whose parent received the maximum retirement benefit of $2,513 could receive as much as $1,256 per month. Children whose parental relationships to a worker are not recognized for purposes of Social Security receive nothing when a parent retires, dies, or becomes disabled, even if that parent is the primary breadwinner for the family. The average annual loss of child survivor benefits for families when a deceased parent goes unrecognized for Social Security purposes is $9,420.
Go below the fold to find out how much more assistance every other family can receive that LGBT families are barred from getting.

Here's a chart they two organizations created, showing the financial discrimination children of same-sex parents could face under a scenario in which the 40-year-old primary breadwinner for a family with two school-age children dies.

Chart comparing Social Security benefits received in different-sex vs. same-sex families.
For different-sex parents, the surviving parent of a child up to age 16 also receives survivor benefits, 75 percent of a worker’s basic benefit, or an average $886 per month. A same-sex spouse isn't eligible for that help. People disabled before the age of 22 are also eligible for benefits based on their parent's work history, if the parent retires or becomes disabled. But not if that parent isn't the legally recognized one. The loss in Social Security benefits to that disabled child over a 30-year time span is $254,102. Finally, a same-sex spouse isn't eligible for the survivor benefit that all different-sex spouses receive.

For many families, this means the difference between living in poverty or with financial security, the ability of a child to go to college. There are some answers to this problem. Congress could pass legislation amending the Social Security Act to include children of all families be included and to include same-sex partners in the definition of spouse. And of course, the Supreme Court could overturn DOMA. Or it might not.

Congress could also act without waiting around for the court. The Respect for Marriage Act, introduced in both of the last two sessions of Congress, would rectify this problem. RMA was reintroduced in the 112th Congress in the House by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and introduced in the Senate by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on March 16, 2011. They need to bring it back, now.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 11:04 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (22+ / 0-)

    "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning." —Warren Buffett

    by Joan McCarter on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 11:04:23 AM PDT

  •  When a marriage equality opponent asks us (8+ / 0-)

    to "think of the children" the above information should be thrown in their faces. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

    •  Of course, they'd probably respond (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ColoTim, Uncle Moji, kyril, Calamity Jean

      that those children should be removed from the home anyway -- better to have them stuck in the foster system and kicked out at 18 with no support system than to live in a "sinful" household (ignoring the fact that many straight couples are raising children while one or both parties are sexually involved with others).

      There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

      by Cali Scribe on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 12:18:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They probably think it (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Uncle Moji, kyril, Calamity Jean

        Whether they'd actually say it is another matter. They'd probably try to find a way of evading the question so it should definitely be posed...

        "So you think a kid is better off in a foster home or an orphanage than with the parents he or she relies on for care and support???"


        "Okay then...suppose a kid is lives in a home with a married mother and father. Suppose those parents beat the kid on a regular basis. Or suppose one of those parents is having an affair and the parents are constantly fighting because of that. Would you say that kid's environment is better than the environment of a kid living with two adults who are in a faithful same-sex relationship with each other?"


        •  And so we are clear (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LuvSet, Calamity Jean

          Should our unfortunate opponent admit that maybe, just maybe, some same-sex relationships are better than even a few heterosexual relationships when it comes to raising children, he or she will be conceding defeat whether or not that fact is acknowledged. Because, of course, unless a living situtation is such that Child Protective Services need to be called in, no arm of civil authority ever assesses the worthiness of a relationship. We fall once again back on the question of whether same-sex couples "deserve" to get married and have children and on that the argument against marriage equality fails because "merit" is irrelevant to civil marriage always has been. Children are raised in real families, not in ideal ones. No state assesses a couple's potential ability to raise children before issuing them a marriage license and if we are suddenly going to suggest that the state begin doing so it will need to impose that test on ALL couples.

      •  Plus they wouldn't want to allocate more $$ (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LuvSet, Calamity Jean

        to support kids of whose deceased parents they did not approve.  They're big-hearted that way.

        Another entitlement, just because a bereaved child might have a pressing need for the income of an expired parent?  No way! We need to visit the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

        "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

        by lgmcp on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 02:55:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great summary, Joan (6+ / 0-)

    Those survivor's benefits can make a huge I know from personal experience. Not only can those benefits mean the difference between poverty and financial security, it can also mean the difference between getting to remain in the family home or being forced to move -- the benefits my family received after my dad's death helped my mom make the mortgage payments (fortunately she already had a good job, but that extra definitely helped).

    There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

    by Cali Scribe on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 12:12:23 PM PDT

  •  The haters won't care unless and until it's (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Uncle Moji, kyril

    their own child suffering, and even then, it's questionable.  Haters gonna hate.

  •  More of a reason (0+ / 0-)

    To do away with taxes related to marriage. Why should so,e have to pay taes on what they earn and them have to pay more simply because they were unfortunate enough to die. All should be able to leave our already taxed money to whomever we want.  Married or not.

  •  The fact is, we exist, we pay taxes, we have (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lgmcp, Calamity Jean, tofumagoo

    children, we are families.  The question is simply this:  Will we continue to confer 2nd class citizenship on millions of Americans who are denied the benefits of marriage and the right to marry.  

    Thanks for a great diary.

    "Out of Many, One Nation." This is the great promise of the United States of America -9.75 -6.87

    by Uncle Moji on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 02:30:22 PM PDT

    •  Second class status (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lgmcp, Uncle Moji, LuvSet, Calamity Jean

      not just for those wishing to marry, but for their children, too.

      "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning." —Warren Buffett

      by Joan McCarter on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 02:39:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Considering the amount of static that single, (0+ / 0-)

        usually female, parents get, there is something cynical about saying that is better than having two parents recognized, whoever they may be, and two parents whose social security accounts would be available to the other of them and to any surviving children.  And don't give static about guys - when I was younger, "Dutch Uncles" and "confirmed bachelors" and 'spinsters"  took up the duty of child rearing when the family needed it done. No more, according to the Rs.  

        Would you please check again on whether the surviving spouse also gets a survivor's benefit when he or she is below the age of SS draws. When my beloved died in 1991, and when my father died before that, there was a survivor benefit for children, but not for the surviving spouse.

  •  Heard a nice commentary on "This Way Out" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LuvSet, Calamity Jean

    today ("the international gay and lesbian radio magazine", thoughtfully carried by my local public radio station).  

    The point was made that "Think of the children!" has long been a mainstay of anti-gay activists, from Anita Bryant onward.  Even Prop 8 in California was advertised as necessary to protect schoolchildren from the necessity of learning in school that gay unions are valid.  

    But NOW the shoe is on the other foot!  A mark of just how pervasive is the sea change in public opinion, now "Think of the children!" is an argument on OUR side!  Once cited, in fact, by Justice Kennedy, who pointed out during oral arguments that some 40,000 California children stand to be directly HARMED by denying legal marriage to their same-sex parents.  

    Yes, the children of gays are children too, righties.  Think of THEM for a change!  And now ... we are!

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 02:44:48 PM PDT

  •  I thought I was in Ultimate Bizarro World (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lgmcp, Calamity Jean

    When Joe Walsh appeared on Martin Bashir's show and when the discussion came to marriage equality he said "What about the kids, Martin? What about the kids?". Joe Walsh asked that! The world's most infamous Deadbeat Dad had the gall/stupidity to ask that!

  •  marriage is about the children (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    I'm in a same sex marriage - we don't have any kids - I don't think we ever will, being as he's leapt the half century mark and I'm closing in on it - but the most dramatic inequalities experienced by same sex families are of the sort Joan McCarter describes - marriage makes not only the adults contracting it into legal family - it makes the children they are raising together into legal family - something which gay-headed* households can by no means rely on.

    After kids I'd say what happened to Shane & Tom is the big thing that scares me most about not having the legal protections of marriage:

    For those who can't play the video, it's a preview of the documentary Bridegroom which chronicles the coupled life of the two young men, Shane and Tom, and the accidental death of one and the subsequent hate thrust at the survivor by the biological family of the deceased.
    *don't you like my coinage?

  •  This seems blatantly discriminatory. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    How is this constitutional?

  •  Not sure this is accurate re adoption (0+ / 0-)

    My understanding is that the federal government does recognize parent-child relationships created by a legally valid adoption, even though it won't (under current law) recognize the spousal relationship. That doesn't protect all children in same-sex two-parent families, but that's true of opposite-sex families as well. (I never adopted my step-daughter, so if I had died, there would have been no Social Security benefit for her even though my income had been partially supporting her.)

    Of course if your state doesn't allow the second parent to adopt, that's a problem, but that's a state-law issue not DOMA.

    •  NOT TRUE! (0+ / 0-)
      (I never adopted my step-daughter, so if I had died, there would have been no Social Security benefit for her even though my income had been partially supporting her.)
      If you had died while your step-daughter was under 18 AND while you were married to and living with her father, she would have been eligble for survivor's benefits from Social Security.  Go here: (pdf) and see page 5.  The "certain circumstances" mentioned in the publication are the "married to and living with" requirements.

      Renewable energy brings national global security.     

      by Calamity Jean on Sat Apr 06, 2013 at 03:55:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Incidently, if you had died, when your grieving (0+ / 0-)

        widower contacted SS to notify them, he would have been informed that your stepdaughter was entitled to benefits.  He would have been eligble also, if she was under 16.

        Renewable energy brings national global security.     

        by Calamity Jean on Sat Apr 06, 2013 at 09:00:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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