Monday, February 15, 2010

Gay people missing from recent GAO report on Social Security

Shortly after posting about the flaws in the upcoming "Rock for Equality" action, I came across a post on the Elder Law Profs Blog about a Government Accountability Project report released last month. The report, Social Security: Options to Protect Benefits for Vulnerable Groups When Addressing Program Solvency, acknowledges and addresses the way Social Security currently deals with families. It highlights the preferential treatment given one-earner households and the disadvantages faced by dual earner couples. It discusses the vulnerability of women. The report draws the many years of work by researchers at the Urban Institute and the Institute for Women's Policy Research whom I referenced in my previous post, as well as the National Women's Law Center and other advocates and scholars.

There is no mention in the report, at all, of the distinct needs of lesbians and gay men and our families.

If gay rights advocates wanted to strengthen and improve Social Security for the most vulnerable in the LGBT community, they needed to be connected to the broader movement already way ahead in looking at our current system. I have been urging this for years. What I thought was that Social Security was nowhere near the top of the list of issues that gay organizations wanted to address. So to discover that two of our leading gay rights groups do indeed want to focus on Social Security, but without a coalition effort, without acknowledging that their narrow demand will help only one subset of the gay community and will actually replicate part of the problem reformers are trying to address is, well, maddening.

Of course it is also maddening that to date the efforts of feminist and progressive researchers and advocates have completely overlooked the distinct needs of lesbians and gay men and our families when it comes to Social Security. But that's why we have to be connected to those groups, to have the exchange of information and perspective that will ensure that our constituency is represented and that our advocates see the bigger picture of which we are a part.

Rock for Equality is a misguided action. I do not support it. In fact, it embarrasses me to be a part of a movement that actually thinks this is the way to tackle the Social Security issue from a gay rights perspective. I explained the problem in detail in my earlier post. It's too late to be included in the recent GAO report. It's not too late to get in touch with the experts who for years have been looking to reform the way Social Security treats families, so we can be included in their future work and the needs of all of us, including single LGBT individuals and same-sex couples with two relatively equal earners, can make their way into the next government report.

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