Gerry Studds’ Husband Shut Out of Federal Pension Benefits

Despite the sad news of Congressman Gerry Studds’ death, it was exciting to see his “husband” Dean Hara referred to in mainstream news publications across the nation. For the first time, a government official’s same-sex spouse was not referred to as partner, boyfriend, longtime companion, or friend.

Hara_studdsBut the federal laws have yet to catch up with the laws of Massachusetts, and Studds’ death has forced into the open the inequality gay couples face when it comes to marriage benefits. Partnered for 15 years, and married when they were able in 2004, Hara deserves the benefits offered to spouses of other deceased lawmakers, who collect more than half of the pensions earned by their spouses:

“When Studds, 69, died from a vascular illness Saturday, he was receiving an estimated annual pension of $114,337, according to the National Taxpayers Union, which studies federal pensions. Studds was first elected to Congress in 1972 and served until 1997. His district represented Cape Cod and the Islands, New Bedford and the South Shore.

If Hara were a woman and married to Studds — rather than a same-sex spouse — he would receive $62,000 a year from Studds’ pension program under the congressional retirement system, according to NTU guidelines.”

The discrimination is glaring.

And the truly sick part of it is that pension benefits are still offered to congressmen convicted of felonies! Like Bob Ney, who faces up to 10 years in prison for his part in the Abramoff influence-peddling scandal. Ney will still receive $29,000 a year in federal pension for the rest of his life.

Studds’ husband will receive nothing. The federal law, defined by the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by Bill Clinton in 1996, trumps all state laws regarding benefits to same-sex spouses. Said Gary Buseck, legal director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders: “We’d been hoping at some point Congress would address the inequities” in the law. There are plenty of people being impacted. But this is the first time right in the congressional family a distinguished member is being treated differently than other members.”

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Former Massachusetts Rep. Gerry Studds Dies at 69: Was First Openly Gay Person Elected to Congress [tr]


  1. says

    That disgusts me, especially that convicted criminals are treated better than us. It goes to show that blind allegiance to one party is ridiculous. Also that it was a democrat that signed these anti-gay laws into effect. Republicans aren’t much better.

  2. Glenn says

    Just a little quibble with Andy’s description of DOMA, mostly FYI: DOMA does not “trump all state laws regarding benefits to same-sex spouses”, it says that for purposes of any federal statute or regulation, “spouse” cannot include same-sex spouses. Gerry Studds’ pension as a US congressman is a federal program, hence DOMA applies (MA law notwithstanding). If Studds had been receiving a state pension, his husband would presumably be entitled to it, and DOMA would have nothing to say about it.

    As for Clinton, while I certainly consider him vastly superior to the very dangerous imbecile we have in office now, his tenure was definitely a mixed bag as far as LGBT rights to. DOMA — which he not only signed but actually bragged about in the 1996 campaign; Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell; enacting our horrendous HIV immigration ban into law. Not proud moments for Clinton.

  3. sam says

    The Federal government recognizes every legal marriage in every state, regardless of varying state laws regarding age, etc, except same sex marriage in Mass. So, if a 50 year old man were to marry his 14-year old female cousin in a state where that’s legal, even though that marriage would be illegal in many states, when he dies, that girl would inherit his pensions and social security, without question. Their marriage would be considered legal and valid by the federal government.

    But, when a 50 year old man marries another 50 year old man in Mass, where it’s legal, even though illegal in other states, the federal government considers his husband to be no more than a stranger and the marriage has no legal significance.

    The only only kind of legal marriage not recognized by the federal government that our tax dollars funds is same sex marriage in Mass.

  4. Zeke says

    You’re right Sam, but it’s even worse than you described.

    Take your 50 year old man/14 year old girl scenario. Assuming the age of consent in the state is 14: If the 50 year old man is serving a life sentence in prison and contacts a 14 year old pen pal and CONvinces her (and her parents) to marry him and they marry within weeks of their first contact and he dies the following day; she has full widow’s rights including ALL pension rights, state AND federal.

    If two men have been together for 60 years and got married the first day they became legal in MA; neither is eligible for ANY federal widower’s benefits upon the death of his husband.

    So when some gay people say that marriage isn’t an important issue for them and that taxes and security are the issues that influence their votes, I have to wonder if these people are in committed relationships or if they ever intend to be in one that will last until their death. I would suggest to them that marriage equality is very much connected to issues of taxes and security especially if the couple has children.

    I’m always especially surprised by gay people who say that marriage rights are not important to them only to find out that they were once in a heterosexual marriage. It makes me wonder what motivates people to marry: Duty, Appearances, Family pressure, and a need for social acceptance?; or Love, Respect, Honesty and Commitment.

    People should consider existing gay families and their own potential future family when they are determining whether they feel gay marriage is an issue worth their time and consideration. It’s kind of like an insurance policy; pay into it now by supporting marriage equality, even if you don’t currently want nor need the benefits because one day you may (hopefully) find yourself in a position where the rights and benefits are extremely important.

    Even for those who are Libertarians and/or Conservatives, there is NOTHING less libertarian or conservative than taxing a citizen to pay for benefits to which he is excluded from receiving.

  5. MALCOLM says

    As a partner in a 21yr marriage (call it what you will, support or disparage it as you will…thats what it is) marriage inequity is an issue I have come to understand is something of a litmus for myself and others. I pushed it away for many years as we built a home and raised our two sons.
    Two years ago, when re-entering the country from a weekend in Victoria,Canada my sister and her ex-husband (they have been divorced for some years) where told to approach the customs desk as “family”. My spouse and I were told to approach seperately, because as the customs officer pointed out “we don’t recognize you.”
    I knew then, very clearly, that in illness, death or even travel we are discriminated against at various levels and it rang clear, really for the first time, what would happen should circumstances push us against the “rules” as they are. We had years before executed documents to protect us and our mutual property from some disgruntled family member or govt official, but on a very fundamental level I understand that the very simply recognition of the ligitimacy of our relationship and our existance within it is at stake.
    I understand the importance of marriage in society…I got married for the same reason my divorced sister did…but 21 yrs later it’s ignored.
    It’s called simple human rights, civil rights, legal rights. And I’ll be damned if I’ll have mine ignored any longer.

  6. Leland says

    “Republicans aren’t much better”?????? What are you smoking? Cigarettes rolled in paper that Republican lies are printed on? They aren’t better at all. In fact, the current cable controlling the Party are tinpot fascists who shall go down in history as exactly that.

    Clinton will be remembered as the President who naively tried to entirely open the military to out gays and lesbians but was faced with a national crisis in his first days in office [and death threats—a Newsweek vet columnist came very close to suggesting his assasination] because the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led by REPUBLICAN Colon [sic] Powell, threatened to resign, and he knew that if he issued an Executive Order, the REPUBLICAN-controlled Congress would simply override it. aided by, yes, Dem Sen. Sam Nunn, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who was not just antigay but eager to get even with Clinton for passingover him for Secretary of Defense. The right flooded their senators’ and reps’ offices with mail against Clinton’s original open-to-all plan. Gay groups, totally naive, too, had not prepared any counter assault. On paper, DADT sounds like a reasonable interim compromise as it theoretically opens the military as long as gays are discreet [aren’t Repug gays always saying “being gay is nobody’s business”?] and the military isn’t supposed to ask or “pursue,” the third mandate often forgotten. But, of course, the military simply ignore the “don’t ask/don’t pursue” parts showing Clinton was naive twice about the same issue and signed it, despite the antigay loopholes Nunn nailed in. He signed its INTENT which was to INCLUDE gays and can’t realistically be blamed for its execution. The antigay nuts certainly didn’t see him as their ally, as evidenced by the beating by three Camp Lejeune Marines of a gay man while yelling, “Clinton must pay!” PS: gay Congressman Barney Frank submitted his own variation of DADTDP which mainly differed in protecting gays’ behavior off base, e.g., being seen in a gay bar.

    Yes, Clinton could and should have vetoed DOMA, INTRODUCED BY REPUBLICANS, but, even if he had, again, THE REPUBLICAN CONTROLLED Congress would have overridden his veto. Studds fought DOMA but even he, his husband’s loss of benefits notwithstanding, would not countenance the Taliban’s revisionist lie “Bill Clinton All Bad. Repugs All Good,” and would forcibly point out the fact that federal DOMA, as exolained by implication above does NOT prevent states from legalizing gay marriage, but the Bush/Rove/Taliban US Constitutional amendment would. If it weren’t for local rabidly antigay REPUBLICANS, gay marriage would not be illegal in 20, soon to be 28 states, nor would there be all of those state versions of DOMA.

    Clinton issued an Executive Order giving gay federal employees job protection for the first time—overturning an executive order by REPUBLICAN President Eisenhower. REPUBLICAN President Bush’es REPUBLICAN appointee overseeing such law has refused to enforce it, despite lip service from GWB that he should.

    Clinton nominated out Jim Hormel as an ambassador. His appointment was viciously blocked for over a year by REPUBLICANS, as they’d similary tried with lesbian Roberta Achtenberg for Fair Housing Administrator, until Clinton did a “recess appointment.” There were at least 50, and some say as many as 150, other out appointees in his administration.

    I could go on, but, please, tell me again, exactly how are Republicans better by any factual measure?

  7. Anon says

    Cabal, not cable. In ’93 the House was controlled by the Democrats. Republicans did not have control until ’95. DOMA’s signing was the brainchild of Clinton’s Republican “triangulation” advisor, Mr. “I bark for prostitutes” Dick Morris.

    Elected officials should not receive pensions, period. Congressmen also receive super-generous lifetime medical benefits that they shouldn’t either. Oddly, the president gets a lot of benefits, but VP’s hardly get anything. Of course the ban also applies to SS benefits and pensions/benefits for federal workers. It will probably be 8 to 12 years before this is reversed.

  8. Bill says

    Similar to Malcolm, my partner and I have been together for 23years. We live in Ohio, the Backward State, I mean Buckeye State. Though, like Malcolm, we have gone the lawyer route to frame our living wills, powers of attorney, etc., the anti-same- sex marriage amendment in this state may even trump those supposed legal documents. As far as we know no cases have come before any courts yet. If it looks like we would lose, it’s bye-bye Ohio.

  9. MALCOLM says

    Bill, I hadn’t even considered how our laws in Washington State (we live in Seattle…and have similar anti-fair marriage laws)might affect our legal agreements.
    And we’re thinking of moving to St. George, Utah. Maybe we need our heads examined!

  10. tjc says

    My husband and I passed through Customs without incident as a Family (we checked off that box on the form) and were treated as a family. Now, I don’t recall if they asked what our relationship to each other was, so they might have assumed we were brothers. But there was no problem and no confrontation. This was in 2001 passing through Philly or NYC coming back from Amsterdam (our honeymoon for getting CU’d the year before in VT). They spent more time looking over the flower bulbs I brought back (legally) than anything else.

  11. Leland says

    “cable” for cabal was a typo, but I meant “Republican-controlled” in the sense that opposition to lifting the pre-DADTDPDH [I forgot “Don’t Harass”] ban, was, within Congress, Nunn notwithstanding, and without, initiated and driven by Republicans. If Republican Powell, as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had supported his Commander-in-Chief, instead of publicly defying him, Nunn would have been undercut. Clinton is far from faultless, but, again, he took office with the intention of further liberating gay Americans while got to the Texas statehouse and the White House by demonizing us.

  12. Glenn says

    BTW, even though I made the comment about Clinton being at best a mixed bag on gay issues, I agree with Leland — there’s no question that the Republican party, and GWB, have been far far far worse on gay issues than anything Clinton or the Democrats ever thought of.

  13. Anon says

    Hawai’i was the first state to ban gay marriage through a state constitutional amendment. It’s solidly blue. (Talk about a cabal though, they take the cake.)

  14. Zeke says

    What the hell. Since Leland kindly talked about my situation here and others have emailed me to repost this message here, I’ll take me chances with upsetting some people with the long re-post. I don’t know where to begin in editing it for this discussion so I’ll post it in it’s entirety. Pick out what relates and ignore the rest.

    This started out as a heated discussiom between myself and a Republican commenter RB. I, was angry and rude to RB initially but quickly, through dialog, came to respect him and honor him as a brother. Hopefully he won’t mind my reprinting this post here:

    To be clear, my accusing you of being a hypocrite was totally directed to the fact that you said getting the right to marry was not so important to you but failed to disclose, until pressed, that you had been married for 11 years. I don’t think there is any question that that was disingenuous.

    As to our histories, we are more alike than we are different my friend. I grew up in Mississippi, the son of a Southern Baptist pastor, Marine and right wing conservative, office holding Republican father and an even more conservative mother and a 100% Republican family. My family almost identically mirrors yours. My life experiences and my education, as with you, changed me, my thinking and my political affiliation.

    That’s what you and so many conservative gay people don’t seem to understand. You seem to be under the impression that all liberal gay people come from the womb glowing Democrat blue with a creamy pink center. You and others seem to assume that gay progressives and Democrats are single issue voters and that THE issue is who they HAVE SEX with. What I want you to understand is MANY of us grew up dyed in the wool conservative Republicans. LIFE EXPERIENCE and education slowly, and sometimes radically, transformed our ideals and therefore our political leanings.

    Gay conservatives so often make the argument that their sexuality is a small part of their identity and not the driving force of their political ideals. They often say that they are more driven by their financial needs or their concerns for national security and other things like that. That seems perfectly reasonable to me. My question to you is why is it reasonable to vote based on finances (taxes), national security, etc. but unreasonable to have one’s sexual orientation be a driving force in one’s political priorities? Why is it not possible that one’s sexual orientation can have a direct impact on how they look at issues such as finances, taxes and personal and national security? I suggest that one’s sexual orientation may actually account for a much greater portion, or at least contribute a greater influence upon one’s identity and political priorities than one might want to acknowledge.

    I think I understand where conservatives may miss the point of why voting through the lens of ones sexual orientation is perfectly reasonable. They, and to a great extent I think you, assume that that means voting according to who you like to have sex with. That is an absolute mischaracterization of what it means to “vote a gay Party line” by supporting gay positive policies and candidates.

    You see, where many conservatives, straight and gay, see only the SEX in SEXual orientation, I and many other liberals see our FAMILY VALUES as being completely inseparable from our sexual orientation. I love, adore, and have built a 15 year monogamous relationship with my husband who I married in Toronto in 2003. WE are raising my biological son as OUR son even though the state of Florida and Federal law considers me and my husband legal strangers and my husband and his son legal strangers. If something happens to me my husband, my son’s papa, will have ABSOLUTELY NO rights to custody. Though we have spent THOUSANDS of dollars trying give ourselves and our family the protection, the rights and the 1000’s of benefits that you, your wife and your children were given by simply saying “I do” there is NO way for us to protect the relationship between my son and his papa. The state of Florida forbids gay adoption, so there is NO way for my son’s relationship with his papa to be protected. If I die, my son will go to my family who disowned me years ago. If no one in my family will take him he will go into foster care and his papa will still have no right to the son that he has raised since birth.

    WHY? Because we are gay, we are homosexual. Period. No other reason. It’s the “gay” thing. So when I “TOW THE GAY PARTY LINE” as you refer to it, it means a whole hell of a lot more than voting based on who I have sex with. It is a vote for MY family values and a vote for MY FAMILY’S survival.

    You talked about how offended you get when you’re being attacked as a gay conservative. However you seem to be unaware of how offensive some of the things that you say can be to those of us whose sexual orientation is an essential part of our family structures. You ‘TOTALLY AGREED” with Mark, who was very offensive in calling people who find the things that I mentioned above important enough to speak out about “cry babies” who needed to get some balls. How could I not be offended by his words and your total agreement with them?

    The only thing that I want to get across to you my friend is we liberals are VALUES voters too even though the news media has perpetuated the misconception that only right wing, fundamentalist Christians vote their values. I believe that anyone who goes to the trouble to vote is a “values voter”. What else does a voter base his vote upon?

    It’s reasonable that some people vote for politicians who support their financial ideals or their national security ideals or other priorities but it is also completely understandable and reasonable that many people find issues of gay equality and gay rights to be a driving force for their political opinions. After all, when I pay more taxes but get less benefits than the straight, three times married, couple next door; when I pay higher car insurance rates than they do; when I pay thousands of dollars to get a portion of the rights that they get with a two week whirlwind romance and a simple “I do”; when my partner can’t inherit the property, that he helped to acquire, from the man that he spent his life with and who he took responsibility for, without paying huge tax penalties that the straight couple next door don’t have to worry about; you might say that my “gay Party line” is based on financial AND PROPERTY RIGHTS not too unlike yours.

    When I vote for people who support my right to a legally recognized and supported family and work tirelessly against those who would deny my family the security that comes from such recognition, you could say that I vote based on DOMESTIC SECURITY positions just like you.

    When I, as a gay war veteran, vote for people who believe that America should allow all of her qualified citizens who want to serve their country in the military to serve, regardless of sexual orientation INCLUDING the 55 Arabic linguist that have been discharged under DADT; and when I, as a supporter of national security who put his ass where his mouth is, support those who don’t believe our military should be used for political purposes and sent into harms way based on lies and misinformation rather than being used in Afghanistan to hunt down real terrorists or being strong, organized and ready to confront REAL threats like North Korea and Iran, you could fairly say that I vote a “gay Party line” for national security.

    I hope this helps you to understand me, and perhaps us gay liberals, better. Believe it or not, like it or not, every day you and your partner unknowingly enjoy many rights and privileges that the very liberals and gay activists that you seem to have so little respect for fought tirelessly for (even while you were playing it straight on the sidelines) and provided for you even though they were fought every step of the way by the conservatives that you hold in such high esteem.

    Don’t forget, you’re talking to a former conservative Republican here. Also don’t forget that many of the concerns that you mentioned are not being addressed by the current manifestation of the Republican Party. Goldwater/Reagan Republicans are leaving the Party in droves. Libertarians are leaving the Party by the boatloads. Why? Because it is no longer the Party of fiscal responsibility, true support for the military, states rights (beyond rhetoric and yellow ribbons), small government, individual freedom and separation of church and state that it once was. It has become a Party of big spending, meddling, big, centralized federal government and bat shit crazy, anti-gay, fundamentalist Christian nuts who are only using the Party to promote their power while the Party is using them for the same purpose.

    I suspect that this has not been lost on you and is probably one reason that you are deflecting a lot of your frustration with your Party onto the Democrats.

    RB, my friend, I appreciate your passion and as a gay father I HONOR your commitment to your family. I hope you will be able to see your sexual orientation in a new light; as an expression of your family values rather than as an expression of your sexual desires. I believe that if you do that you might better understand where many, but not all, of us gay liberals are coming from.

    And if you ever come to the conclusion that you would have a better chance of influencing change in the financial, tax or security policies of the Democratic Party than you have of changing the anti-gay policies of the Republican Party, come on over you’ll be welcomed with open arms, at least by me.

    As I stated earlier in this thread, I am a Democrat ONLY because they are the only viable opposition to the current, what I think is a disastrous regime. I work EVERY single day to change the things that I don’t like about the Party from within. That includes their fair weather support for gay families. I personally feel that there is a better chance of effecting that change within the Democratic Party than from within the Republican Party.

    Anyway, sorry for the sermon (I told you my father was a preacher). I hope you at least understand me better even if you can’t get your head around the “liberal” thing.

    Again, I wish you and your family all the best my brother.


    I apologize again for the long re-post. In the past I’ve been accused of hijacking threads. It’s not my intent I assure you. Some of my Towleroad friends insisted that it was important.

  15. RB says

    I am glad Zeke reposted part of our dialog here! I have a tremendous amount of respect for where he is coming from and I understand everything he said. The conversation was extremely enlightening and provided a different point of view than I am accustomed. I am so frequently dismissed after I state that I am a republican that it angers me. It is as if I am not “gay enough”.

    While I remain a republican, I certainly feel as though I gained a brother in the same fight in Zeke. We must understand that there is diversity amongs us and we are different. DIFFERENT IS OK! We are working towards a common goal…recognition of our families. There is always more than one way to get to the same place. I applaud Zeke for his beliefs and the mutual respect that came from our exchange.

    I think that the reason George Bush never came swinging against abortion as other republicans did was because Barbara Bush would have ripped him a new one. Just an opinion, but there is something to the old saying if mother is not happy then no one is! Laura is a bright individual and Condi is far more capable than her current position. I think it is disingenuous to sell them short. The glass may be half full, BUT IT IS NOT EMPTY! Give them some credit for what she Condi said. We all had to crawl before we walked!

  16. frankly fubar says

    The irony of copulating Christians bleeting about family values is as rich as a well rotted compost pile. The irony of denying the Representives loyal husband death benefits smells like a well rotted compost pile.
    I’m not willing to glibly say it’s just another evidence of the deep love long term same sex couples have for each other & an example of self sacrifice a same sex couple gives to an uncaring world. However, all I can do is wryly say, “Thank god I’m an atheist.”
    fyi: copulating Christians are aka f&%king Jesus freaks

  17. says

    Posted by: Leland | Oct 17, 2006 11:58:58 AM

    Amen, Leland!

    Point on.

    By the way, one more thing I’d like to point out. Major publications might have called Mr. Hara, “Gerry Studds’ husband,” but CNN consistently dishonored Mr. Hara by referring to him over and over again as his “PARTNER.”

  18. noah says

    Gay Republicans can sleep easily knowing that they can safely discriminate against their brothers and sisters, colored folk, the middle class, the working class, etc. as long as they pretend that they’re first class citizens and not the Uncle Tom sellouts they are.

  19. says

    “I think that the reason George Bush never came swinging against abortion as other republicans did was because Barbara Bush would have ripped him a new one. Just an opinion, but there is something to the old saying if mother is not happy then no one is! Laura is a bright individual and Condi is far more capable than her current position. I think it is disingenuous to sell them short. The glass may be half full, BUT IT IS NOT EMPTY! Give them some credit for what she Condi said. We all had to crawl before we walked!

    Posted by: RB | Oct 17, 2006 6:06:03 PM

    I don’t give them credit for crap! They don’t deserve it.

    The big problem with “Jews for Hitler” I mean “Log Cabin Republicans” is they support people who appeal and owe their jobs to bigots. Therefore, I don’t care HOW MUCH THEY BELIEVE in equal rights and non-discriminatory policies, when they owe their offices to the bigoted pigs who put them there they will CAVE every time to their wishes. Also, blaming Clinton for the political realities of having to play nice with a bigoted Republican congress, and a pre-“Will and Grace” public is laughable. PUT PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRATS in office and we will see progress for LGBT rights. Continue to support Republicans and you will get $1000.00 from Mary Cheney for Gay Marriage in Vermont. Your choice.

  20. says

    I apologize again for the long re-post. In the past I’ve been accused of hijacking threads. It’s not my intent I assure you. Some of my Towleroad friends insisted that it was important.

    Posted by: Zeke | Oct 17, 2006 5:18:22 PM

    Totally profound post.

  21. Jack says

    Andy, you’re letting your strong partisanship skew your perspective.

    In this post you refer to former U. S. Representative Gerry Studds as a “distinguished former member” of Congress. And in many previous posts you’ve hung former Congressman Mark Foley out to dry. When thinking of Foley, I doubt that “distinguished” ever enters your mind.

    Hey, Foley is a sleazebag for sending explicit messages to former congressional pages. But, as yet, there’s no evidence that he actually had sexual contact with any teenage page, active or former. Mr. Foley resigned in disgrace and the situation has become a major political scandal.

    Studds, on the other hand, actually had sex with an active congressional page. He did not resign. In fact, when censured by the House he refused to apologize for his indiscretion.

    I would say neither Studds nor Foley deserves “distinguished” used to describe his tenure in Congress.

  22. Phillip says

    This demonstrates how ludicrous it is when anyone says that the marriage issue is not worth fighting for or that they are annoyed or tired of it… this situation highlights how disgusting discrimination is.

  23. Karim says

    This is outrageous. A congressman admits to his wrongdoing and he keeps his pension (and we , the taxpayers, pay for it) while a legal widower cannot claim the benefits due to him because he married a former Congressman, not Congresswoman? Despicable.

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