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Protest Demands Equal Social Security Benefits

Protest Demands Equal Social Security Benefits

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Rep. Linda Sanchez officially announced Sunday to a crowd of 700 that she would introduce a bill to equalize Social Security benefits for same-sex couples.

"We now have quality, affordable health care coming to all," Sanchez said at the Rock for Equality rally in Los Angeles. "What good is the quality of our health care in America if Americans are not treated equally under all of our laws? 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."

Sanchez told The Advocate last week that she intended to introduce the bill at the event.

Also in attendance was fellow Southern California Rep. Judy Chu, who vowed to sign onto Sanchez's bill. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who is waging a reelection campaign for this fall, said that she would sponsor or co-sponsor the Senate version of the bill. Boxer said that her alliance with LGBT rights will continue if reelected, as she was one of 11 Senators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

The crowd of 700 who gathered at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center in Hollywood then walked a mile to the Social Security Administration office on Vine St. near Santa Monica Blvd., blocking off traffic and grabbing the attention of onlookers in churches and stores along the route. At the building, a swarm of protesters of all ages gathered to watch older activists rock in a lineup of rocking chairs, telling stories of how the Social Security Administration had failed them in their time of need. Alice Herman, spoke about being denied benefits after her wife Sylvia died after 42 years together.

"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," says Herman. She said that because Sylvia was the breadwinner, she was left "a heartbeat away" from living in her car because she could no longer afford to live in the home they shared.

According to Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, LGBT families are excluded from collecting approximately $2 billion in the past decade because same-sex couples cannot share their benefits, even if they are married.

Research from the University of California, Los Angeles shows that ineligibility for Social Security benefits costs the surviving partners of same-sex couples an average of $5,700 per year.

Check the following pages for photos from the event...

Rep. Linda Sanchez

Alice Herman

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