The Federal Office of Personnel Management has no choice but to deny "spousal" benefits to the late Representative Gerry E. Studds' male lover, thanks to President Clinton's Defense of Marriage Act.
The federal government has refused to pay death benefits to the spouse of former congressman Gerry E. Studds (D-Mass.), the first openly gay member of Congress.
Studds married Dean Hara in 2004 after same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts. But Hara will not be eligible to receive any portion of Studds's estimated $114,337 annual pension because the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act bars the federal government from recognizing Studds's marriage.
Peter Graves, a spokesman for the Office of Personnel Management, which administers the congressional pension program, said same-sex partners are not recognized as spouses for any marriage benefits. He said Studds's case is the first of its kind known to the agency.
Under federal law, pensions can be denied only to lawmakers' same-sex partners and to people convicted of espionage or treason, Graves said.
That last bit, if actually spoken by Peter Graves, is totally ridiculous. Pensions are not "only" denied to "same-sex partners", but also to anyone who is not a spouse. Using the words "spouse" and "marriage" does not make it so.
Gary Buseck, legal director for the group Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, said Studds's case may offer "a moment of education for Congress."
"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," Buseck said.
Yes, Studds' homosexual lover is being treated differently than Congressional spouses. This should not be news. Also not news: the teenage pages Studds' screwed in 1983 will not be receiving pensions either.