Dean Hara, 48, the spouse of deceased former Representative Gerry Studds has been told he will not get any share of Studds’ annual $114,337 pension.
The couple got married when same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts but, according to All Headline News, the marriage was not recognised by federal law.
The 1996 federal Defence of Marriage Act blocks the federal government from recognising the 2004 marriage between Studds and Hara or other same-sex couples.
Studds voted against the act, which was passed July 12, 1996, by a vote of 342-67, according to the House Clerk’s office.
Studds, a Democrat, became the first openly gay member of US House when his homosexuality was exposed during a 1983 teenage page sex scandal. He retired from political life in 1997 and died last weekend at age 69.
Gary Buseck, legal director for Gay Lesbian Advocates Defenders, told the Associated Press that the death of Studds may illuminate an inequity Congress enacted in “an era of fear and trepidation of gay marriage” when it appeared Hawaii might allow same-sex marriage.
“This is maybe a moment of education for Congress,” he said. “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.”
Studds was the first openly gay person elected to Congress. He died earlier this month at Boston Medical Centre, several days after he collapsed while walking his dog. He fell unconscious on October 3 2006 because of what doctors later said was a blood clot in his lung, Hara told the media.
Arline Isaacson, co-chairman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, told the North Addams Transcript that Hara “shouldn’t have to wonder” about receiving his husband’s pension benefits.
“He should be able to focus on grieving, not on the discrimination perpetrated against him,” she said.
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