Saturday, July 05, 2008

Children of civil unions and a disabled parent can qualify social security benefits



In October 2007, the Acting General Counsel Social Security Administration issued a memo titled “Whether the Defense of Marriage Act precludes the non-biological child or a member of a Vermont civil union from qualifying for child’s insurance benefits under the Social Security Act.” The link is here.
This apparently was based on similar work from the Office of Legal Counsel of the Justice Department.

This morning, July 5, the Washington Post ran an editorial “Justice for Gays: the Bush administration rules that children of same-sex benefits can receive social security benefits”. The link is here. The couple were Monique and Karen, who had entered into a civil union in Vermont. Karen had been identified as a “second parent.” Karen became disabled, able to receive social security herself, and this set up the legal question as to whether her son Elijah would be eligible. The DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel Steve A. Engel would rule that the notorious Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA, signed by President Clinton in 1996) would not affect social security benefits for children of a disabled person, because there was no requirement for marriage in its meaning normally conferring federal survivor benefits. There only a question as to whether the state of birth recognized the parentage of the child, which Vermont did.

Yet, according to “The Volokh Conspiracy” newsletter (in a June 19, 2008 posting), Peter Sprigg, of the Family Research Council, expressed disappointment that the Bush administration did not take the ironic “pro-family” position in denying benefits apparently to a non-biological child. The link is here. It seems telling that “pro-family” forces want to make so much out of biological procreative processes and the adulation that it (when occurring in marriage) apparently must demand from surrounding society.

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