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Hundreds Rally for Social Security Benefits for Same-Sex Couples

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At a march and rally yesterday, U.S. Representative Linda Sanchez announced that she would be authoring legislation to provide equal Social Security benefits for same-sex couples.

“We now have quality, affordable health care coming to all. What good is the quality of our health care in America if Americans are not treated equally under all of our laws?” Sanchez exclaimed to an estimated crowd of 700 before the march began. “I look at this country—which is great but could be made better—and I see that there is still discrimination... I don’t think it’s right that Americans should be treated differently by the country they love because of who they love.”

The march went from the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center in Hollywood to the nearby Social Security Administration office.

According to a Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law study, the lack of eligibility for Social Security Survivors benefits for surviving partners of same-sex couples is $5,700 per year. This is especially important for seniors like Alice Herman, a client of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center. She said when her lawfully wedded wife Sylvia passed away, she was left almost homeless. “At the time I was burying Sylvia and grieving her loss, I had to look for a place to live as fast I as could,” she explained. If she were a man, the situation would have been different. “This has got to change."

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“They shared their lives for 20, 30 even 40 years—and paid into Social Security with every paycheck just like everyone else," said Lorri L. Jean, who heads the Center. "But they are cheated out of survivor benefits because their relationships are not recognized by the Social Security system.”

Last month, the Los Angeles City Council backed a resolution supporting any federal legislation for social security benefits for gay couples. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa later signed it last week and the City of West Hollywood followed suit. President Barack Obama has also stated his opposition to Social Security discrimination against same-sex couples.

U.S. Representative Judy Chu has offered to co-author Sanchez' legislation.