Celebrating two special anniversaries

By Laurie Young, Ph.D., Interim Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

I love Social Security.

Last Saturday we celebrated the 75th anniversary of Social Security. It was also my second wedding anniversary (though my same-sex partner and I have been together for 27 years). Yes, my partner and I were married on the anniversary of Social Security. While it was accidental, I like to think that my unconscious led me to this date two years ago, when same-sex couples could legally marry in California.

Laurie Young moderates a recent congressional briefing on LGBT aging.

The outcome is that I can now celebrate the most important legal event in my life, and one of the most important policies in America’s life. Both celebrations point to the inherent dignity and worth of all people, that regardless of life’s circumstances we can look to each other and the best of our government’s instincts, to take care of those who need both ensurance and insurance that we are not alone in times of need.

Both enshrine a commitment to be there in sickness and in health and a right to a life of dignity.

The birth of Social Security was the recognition that those who work hard and contribute to the vibrancy of who we are as a nation of many different people, should be able to rely on a promise of social insurance to lift people up to a life of dignity and worth as we age.

Later on, we realized that the insurance protections should exist as well for those who are disabled or challenged as the family left behind when a breadwinner prematurely dies. Our marriage recognizes the love and commitment we make to each other, to build a life together and to be present when life’s challenges can whack you unexpectedly.

The values and principles of social justice and economic justice are the driving force behind our work today to preserve the benefits from those who threaten to cut that safety net. The promise made to us is one of basic fairness: you pay into a system-a premium if you will, and the benefit will be there when you need it. For 75 years, workers paid their premiums and the promise comes through and indeed has been strengthened over time.

Yet, because same-sex couples are denied federal recognition of their legal relationships, we will not be able to rely on survivor’s benefits or spousal benefits. LGBT people make less than heterosexual people as a whole, and for an individual, that difference can be a path to poverty as we age. Many changes are necessary at the federal level to ensure a life of grace and dignity for LGBT elders.

So, protecting Social Security from those who look to reduce benefits is critical to make sure we can age in peace. We can’t allow those who look to use any opportunity to push their ideological prejudice against the role of government to take care of its people and to distort the truth about Social Security.

I will be telling my representatives in Congress during this August break how I count on them to do the right thing, and how much my vote depends on their work performance.

So, please … send me an anniversary present and tell your federal lawmakers to protect Social Security. While our relationships may not be recognized, you can bet your vote sure won’t be ignored.