Politics

Gay widower got $90,000 for past discrimination due to Biden administration reforms

Joe Biden
Joe BidenPhoto: Adam Schultz / Biden for President

Anthony Gonzales was with his partner Mark Johnson for almost 16 years. But they were only married for six months, getting married after their home state of New Mexico legalized marriage equality until Johnson died of rectal cancer.

Gonzales was initially rejected from receiving Social Security survivor benefits when he applied at age 60 – which is the age of eligibility (or 50 if you’re disabled) – because  the couple had not been married for the required nine months. Now he receives $1,800 a month and also got a whopping $90,000 lump sum payment for the years he should have been eligible.

Related: Biden administration allows LGBTQ seniors to get Social Security benefits equally

This past November, the Biden administration announced that LGBTQ widows whose partners passed away before marriage equality was legal are officially eligible for social security survivor benefits.

And LGBTQ survivors are getting paid. A lot. Not only are those eligible able to receive an average of $1,250 per month, but eligible survivors who were previously denied benefits will also receive a lump sum of back payment, according to Slate.

One survivor, Helen Thornton, who was a plaintiff in the case that helped win these benefits for LGBTQ people, received a lump sum of $72,000 for the years of lost payments. Her partner of almost thirty years, Margery Brown, died in 2006 from ovarian cancer, and she had been struggling financially ever since.

Thornton’s monthly income has also doubled since she became eligible for survivor’s benefits.

LGBTQ widows whose partners died before they could be married became eligible for these benefits when in November, the Biden administration dropped appeals in two class action lawsuits that had been filed by LGBTQ advocates during the Trump era to get the Social Security Administration to grant the benefits.

Lambda Legal had already won both lawsuits in the lower courts.

The Trump administration had filed appeals in these cases, but the Biden Administration dropped those appeals to allow these rulings to stand.

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