Freedom To Marry

The gay and non-gay partnership working to win marriage equality nationwide

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Why Marriage Matters to Senior Citizens

"When a gay, lesbian or bisexual senior dies, his or her surviving partner faces a financial loss that can amount to tens of thousands of dollars because the couple cannot be recognized as legally married in the United States. Despite having paid taxes their whole lifetime at the same rate as other Americans, surviving partners are: denied the Social Security survivor benefits that are made available to all married couples; heavily taxed on any retirement plan — 401(k) or IRA — they inherit from their partners, although married spouses can inherit these plans tax-free; and charged an estate tax on the inheritance of a home, even if it was jointly owned — a tax that would not apply to married spouses."

The Cost of Marriage Inequality to Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Seniors, Human Rights Campaign Foundation

Use the key resources below to learn more about why marriage matters to senior citizens.

 


 

STORY CENTER COUPLES:

Meet a few of the senior couples who have shared their stories with Freedom to Marry:

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WHERE YOU CAN GO TO GET INVOLVED OR LEARN MORE:

Civil Marriage Discrimination & Gay and Lesbian Seniors
LGBT Aging Project
Marriage discrimination pushes many gay seniors into isolation, fear, a precipitous fall into poverty, and a higher risk of homelessness and premature institutionalization. According to a 2002 study in The Gerontologist (a publication of the Gerontological Society of America) the health of gay senior citizens is threatened by pervasive discrimination, requiring that we all ask "profound questions."

Lesbian and Gay Aging Issues Network (LGAIN)
A constituent group of the nonprofit American Society on Aging, LGAIN works to raise awareness about concerns of older LGBT people. The website's Recommended Resources section contains links to a broad range of books, reports, periodicals, fact sheets, websites, listservs, audiotapes, videos, and more.

Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders
Incorporated in 1978 as Senior Action in a Gay Environment by a group of seniors, social workers, gerontologists, and activists in the lesbian and gay community, SAGE (now known as Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders) is the world's oldest and largest non-profit agency dedicated to serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender senior citizens.

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THE NUMBERS: POLLING & STATISTICS:

The surviving gay partner of a retiree receives no Social Security survivor benefits. That contrasts with the more than $5,000 per year that widows and widowers draw, on average, in survivor benefits. "Outing Age" estimated in 2000 that, in that one area alone, the federal failure to be fair is costing gay seniors $124 million a year.

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LEGISLATIVE STATUS RELATING TO GAY AND LESBIAN SENIORS IN THE U.S.:

The Federal Pension Protection Act
Human Rights Campaign
August 17, 2007

Working very closely with members of Congress for more than three years, the Human Rights Campaign secured two important protections that assist gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans in the Pension Protection Act signed into law on Aug. 17, 2006. The act includes provisions allowing non-spouse beneficiaries to roll over retirement benefits, and adding non-spouse beneficiaries to the retirement plan hardship distribution rules. The two provisions extend important financial protections to same-sex couples and other Americans who name non-spouses as their retirement plan beneficiaries.

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PUBLICATIONS:

The Cost of Marriage Inequality to Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Seniors
A Human Rights Campaign Foundation Report
January 29, 2004

Equality in access to marriage, and the many benefits and protections that go with it, would bring equity to the taxation of and benefits provided to all seniors, regardless of sexual orientation. Specifically, granting same-sex couples the right to marry would guarantee that the widows and widowers of same-sex couples would not be hit with undue estate tax and income tax burdens — nor deprived of Social Security survivor benefits — upon the death of a partner. Marriage equality also would decrease the risk of losing their homes that gay, lesbian and bisexual seniors now face when a partner enters a nursing home or dies.

Out & Aging: The MetLife Study of Lesbian and Gay Baby Boomers
MetLife Mature Market Institute in conjunction with the Lesbian and Gay Aging Issues Network of the American Society on Aging and Zogby International
November 2006

All told, only about one in six LGBT boomers reported having made actual arrangements for future informal caregiving. But, when the need arises, more than half (53%) reported a partner or spouse is the most likely person to become their primary caregiver. Of those currently in civil unions, domestic partnerships or marriages, that proportion rises to more than eight in ten.

Outing Age
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
November 9, 2000

Today we stand at the edge of two tidal waves: a growing wave of GLBT people aging and entering the social service and community institutions which care for and advocate for the elderly; and a tidal wave of reaction against government, and against government funding for social service needs.

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NEWS:

Read news about seniors and the fight for the freedom to marry.

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MULTIMEDIA:

Elderly Aunt Disses Mitt Romney
June 20, 2007

Outlook Video (Gay TV)
June 18, 2006
Tom Smith interviews Brad, an internet blogger and video podcast (vlog) producer, from the "Willing Warrior". First they talk about what a podcast is, then, more about his video podcasts, where he covers topics as diverse as taking a stand on gay issues, speaking up for yourself, the coming out process, marriage equality, and homophobia in senior care homes.

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SHARING OUR STORIES
Lesbian and Gay Aging Issues Network (LGAIN)

A constituent group of the nonprofit American Society on Aging, LGAIN works to raise awareness about concerns of older LGBT people. The website's Recommended Resources section contains links to a broad range of books, reports, periodicals, fact sheets, websites, listservs, audiotapes, videos, and more.

Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders

Incorporated in 1978 as Senior Action in a Gay Environment by a group of seniors, social workers, gerontologists, and activists in the lesbian and gay community, SAGE (now known as Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders) is the world's oldest and largest non-profit agency dedicated to serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender senior citizens.

The Cost of Marriage Inequality to Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Seniors

A Human Rights Campaign Foundation Report
January 29, 2004
Equality in access to marriage, and the many benefits and protections that go with it, would bring equity to the taxation of and benefits provided to all seniors, regardless of sexual orientation. Specifically, granting same-sex couples the right to marry would guarantee that the widows and widowers of same-sex couples would not be hit with undue estate tax and income tax burdens — nor deprived of Social Security survivor benefits — upon the death of a partner. Marriage equality also would decrease the risk of losing their homes that gay, lesbian and bisexual seniors now face when a partner enters a nursing home or dies..