Second Class Survivors

| November 21, 2001

Second Class Survivors

Gay and lesbian partners of Sept. 11 victims are struggling to be recognized as legitimate partners by the federal government, but the American Red Cross is offering disaster relief to them, reports Andy Humm in The Village Voice.

Gay groups, like New York's Empire State Pride Agenda, lobbied the American Red Cross and Gov. George Pataki immediately after the attacks, asking them to acknowledge gay partners as dependents eligible for relief. As a result, the American Red Cross decided to include them in their aid package.

On the federal level domestic partners are not recognized, but some politicians -- like gay senior House member Barney Frank -- are trying to convince Congress of the legitimacy of their claims. While Frank says expecting Congress to pass gay-inclusive language is 'wildly optimistic,' he has his sights set on Attorney General John Ashcroft. Ashcroft will decide over the next few weeks which survivors are entitled to Airline Stabilization Act relief -- amounting to probably $1 million for each survivor who forgoes a lawsuit against the airlines.

The debate has divided groups along party lines, with conservatives leaning toward keeping domestic partners from claiming benefits. The Salvation Army reinforced this recently by rescinding benefits for gay partners of employees after facing scrutiny from the Christian right. Still, the domestic partnership issue makes for strange bedfellows, with Republican and ex-President Gerald Ford endorsing equal treatment for gay couples.
--Kate Garsombke
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Salvation Army Rescinds Domestic Partners Benefits, Bill Berkowitz, WorkingForChange