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July 6, 2008

Surprising Decision Allows Child Of Gay "2nd Parent" Social Security Benefits

An article in the Washington Post on Saturday said that the Justice Department's Office Of Legal Council (OLC) advised the Social Security Administration (SSA) that the child of a gay-union was eligible for social security benefits.

This decision was the result of an inquiry made by the SSA to the Justice Department last year. They wanted to know if the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denies federal benefits to same-sex couples, would also bar the child of a same-sex couple from receiving benefits from his non-biological parent?

The two women involved in the case, identified only as Monique and Karen, entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2002. In 2003, Monique gave birth to a son. The civil union (legal in Vermont) made it possible for Karen to be identified on the birth certificate as "second parent." In 2005, Karen became eligible for disability benefits and asked that Elijah receive "child's insurance benefits" under Social Security to supplement their lost income.

What's pretty amazing, and gratifying, is the fact that OLC acting chief Steven G. Bradbury, who was strongly criticized for his involvement in Justice Department interrogation matters, approved the Social Security memo.

The Washington Post article asked:

How could the OLC, which gained notoriety for putting ideology before the rule of law to justify extreme interrogation techniques, come to such a conclusion? By reading the law governing Social Security benefits neutrally and correctly -- and by keeping politics out of the analysis. In short, it relied on a straightforward -- some might say "conservative" -- approach to produce a result that even "liberals" should applaud.

This is a very important milestone in our efforts to secure equal rights for same-sex couples and their families.

I never thought I'd say this while the Bush administration was still in office but I have to applaud the OLC and its acting chief, Steven G. Bradbury, for their surprisingly balanced and just approach.

Read the full story at: washingtonpost.com