Briefs Outline Economic Injury to Workers Inflicted by DOMA and Proposition 8
WASHINGTON, DC - Earlier today, SEIU, as part of the Change to Win coalition, joined the AFL-CIO to file an amicus brief supporting the respondents in the challenge to the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a case to be argued in front of the Supreme Court later next month. The brief argues that not only does Proposition 8 codify discrimination; it ensures that workers with same-sex spouses earn less, pay higher taxes and have fewer workplace protections. Tomorrow, the same coalition, together with the National Education Association, will file a similar amicus brief in the case challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), also to be argued in front of the Court next month.
"SEIU members, just like working people everywhere, believe federal laws should not financially penalize some workers simply because of whom they love and with whom they choose to build their life," said Valarie Long, International Executive Vice President of SEIU. "These laws deny working people with same-sex spouses the same access to health coverage, Social Security benefits and a host of other protections that working people rely on for economic security. It's not right."
The two briefs support the respondents in the cases, ask the Court to uphold the appellate courts' rulings striking down DOMA and Proposition 8, and argue that laws defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman harm working same-sex couples and puts them at a significant economic disadvantage.
"SEIU has long advocated for equal treatment of all workers and their families," continued Long. "We are committed to achieving equality for gay and lesbian families for the very same reason that we are committed to winning justice for immigrants, guarding the right of every American to vote and for all workers to be treated with respect: protecting the rights of working men and women is an important part of our collective mission."
Many workplace protections are tied to marital status. Because of DOMA and laws like Proposition 8, only heterosexual married workers are able to fully enjoy them. These protections include access to family health insurance coverage, eligibility to receive Social Security benefits, and access to workers' compensation protection.
- Healthcare Benefits: Due to DOMA, people in gay and lesbian relationships are more likely to be uninsured than heterosexual couples. DOMA also significantly raises healthcare costs for same-sex couples because they can't take advantage of federal tax benefits. For example, gay and lesbian couples can't use pre-tax flexible spending accounts or tax deductions for their partner's health premiums.
- Social Security and Other Retirement Benefits: Gay and lesbian married employees and retirees are denied Social Security survivor benefits. They cannot receive tax benefits for contributing to a retirement account for an out-of-work spouse. It's difficult for a same-sex partner to qualify as a payee for a pension plan. The list goes one. Retirement security is a concern for all working people. The federal government's failure to recognize same-sex unions is detrimental to the long-term economic well-being of gay and lesbian couples, not to mention discriminatory.
- Workers' Compensation and Other Federal Programs: It's not just health care and retirement benefits. There are other programs, such as a specialized federal workers' compensation program that provides a lump sum death benefit for workers who die or on the job. Same-sex partners are not eligible to receive this benefit, nor are they eligible to receive death or survivor benefits under the Federal Employee Retirement System or the Federal Employees' Compensation Act.