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Quietly to

Quietly to


Congress passed and President Bush signed into law new 401(k) benefits for same-sex couples. How did the Human Rights Campaign and others win this fight? Very quietly.

How did this happen? This is something that we have worked on for four years. Why do we want to get married? Well, let's look at the 1,100 economic inequities that we suffer from. We looked out across the legislative landscape and saw this pension reform bill and thought, OK, what about the nonspousal benefit piece? A broad number of legislators said, "You know, I can be for that."

The provision doesn't explicitly refer to same-sex couples. It doesn't. It just says that any American can designate any other American [to inherit their 401(k) without an immediate tax burden]. But I don't care if our name is in it or not. What I care about is that if you're a lesbian couple and one of you drops dead at 50 and you have $200,000 in your 401(k) plan, now your partner is going to get $200,000 instead of $100,000.

HRC is often criticized for not achieving broad federal victories. Do you feel vindicated? [Laughs] I don't feel vindicated, because I think people's criticism is born out of frustration with the country--and we are the biggest thing in front of them, so we get the criticism. But yeah, this is a huge victory and a wonderful thing for our community. It's a step in the direction of economic equity that all people should be able to enjoy within the institution of marriage.

Will this make it easier to go out and fund-raise? I'm looking forward to celebrating the victory and making sure members of our community know what they need to do as a result of this [see box]. A lot of people don't have designated beneficiaries. They need to make sure their paperwork is in order and that they have a clear sense of what all this means so that they are in a position to take advantage of it.

HOW YOU BENEFIT Under the Pension Protection Act, signed into law on August 17, you can now designate your same-sex partner (or another beneficiary) to take over your 401(k) without tax penalties upon your death. You can also withdraw from the retirement fund without tax penalties in the event of a qualifying medical or financial crisis for you or your beneficiary. Consult or your financial adviser for more details.

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