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Task Force study finds that Social Security privatization will disproportionately harm lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender

Date: 
August 09, 2005

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National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study finds that Social Security privatization will disproportionately harm lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans

'Social Security privatization is a gamble with the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender elders. It is a gamble our community simply cannot afford.'
— National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman

WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force released a report today that finds that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans will be disproportionately harmed by President Bush's plan to privatize Social Security.

According to Selling Us Short: How Social Security Privatization Will Affect Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Americans, LGBT Americans, on average, have lower incomes than their heterosexual counterparts, which translates into lower Social Security benefits when they retire. In addition, same-sex couples are not eligible for Social Security's spousal and survivor benefits provisions, making the LGBT community disproportionately vulnerable to the benefit cuts and risks inherent to the president's plan.

"There is a widespread myth that gay people are economically advantaged compared to heterosexuals. U.S. Census data and other national surveys indicate the opposite. In fact, gay and bisexual men earn anywhere from 13 percent to 32 percent less than heterosexual men," said Sean Cahill, director of the Task Force's Policy Institute, which published the study. "If we earn less, we receive a lower Social Security payment in retirement. Any proposals that cut retirement benefits will disproportionately hurt gay people."

Selling Us Short finds that LGBT people of color, in particular, face an income disadvantage that leads to lower Social Security benefits. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, black same-sex couples earn roughly $2,000 to $9,000 less in median annual household income than black married opposite-sex couples, and Hispanic same-sex couples earn roughly $1,000 to $4,000 less in median annual household income than Hispanic married opposite-sex couples.

Discriminatory government policies, meanwhile, place gay people in an even more economically disadvantaged position, increasing the critical need to maintain the economic safety net Social Security is intended to provide.

"Gay people have to report domestic partner health insurance as income to the IRS, but married spouses don't have to report their health coverage as income," explained Cahill. "Gay people can't inherit their partner's pension plan, while a heterosexual widow or widower can be a beneficiary. Not only do we earn less, we are less able to keep what we earn. These are among the many inequities that make same-sex couples particularly vulnerable to cutbacks in Social Security benefits."

Added Mandy Hu, author of the report: "The federal Defense of Marriage Act continues to deny same-sex couples access to more than 1,000 federal benefits and protections of marriage that opposite-sex married couples currently receive, including Social Security spousal and survivor benefits. Even though LGBT Americans pay in to the Social Security system at the same rate as everyone else, our families and children receive fewer benefits, often in times of crisis. If Social Security is to be changed, it should be changed so that all families are treated fairly."

"Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are more likely to age alone and less likely to have children than their heterosexual counterparts," said Amber Hollibaugh, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's senior strategist and specialist on LGBT elders. "This, coupled with a lower rate of earning makes them particularly reliant on Social Security."

Selling Us Short finds that LGBT elders could be negatively affected by privatization. By 2030, the estimated population of LGBT seniors will range from two to eight million. LGBT elders may be especially dependent on public services for the elderly, including Social Security, because they may be without the same family support systems as heterosexual seniors.

"It is would be wrong to support privatization in exchange for opening a portion of Social Security to same-sex couples while overlooking the fact that marriage equality — which the Bush administration vehemently opposes — would guarantee all Social Security benefits to all same-sex couples. We are unwilling to trade illusory benefits against the benefits and rights of other Americans," said National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman.

Selling Us Short: How Social Security Privatization Will Affect Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Americans is available at http://www.thetaskforce.org/reports_and_research/selling_us_short.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute is the LGBT community's preeminent think tank dedicated to research and policy analysis on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.