My husband and I have been sweating the survival of his pension for quite some time now (he is retired and we rely on his hard earned pension benefits). It has been very stressful worrying about this. The uncertainty has truly been agonizing. And watching Congress play political football with our lives on this for what has felt like an eternity was sheer torture for us and thousands of others like us. So naturally today we breathed a huge sigh of relief when President Bush finally signed it into law.
But what I did not know until today was that it is a big victory for the GLBT community as well. I received an email from the Human Rights Campaign explaining how this bill will benefit millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families:
It is a great and historic day for our community. Today, federal legislation called the Pension Protection Act was signed into law and it includes two provisions that extend important financial protections to more Americans - including same-sex couples. This is an incredibly exciting victory that will be helpful to millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families.
This Act is important because it has two hard-fought HRC-backed provisions that we lobbied for intensely and secured its inclusion. These provisions will help same-sex couples nationwide. Basically what this means is that these two provisions ensure that the
tax code, in times of emergencies, is fairer to more Americans, including our community, and puts us on a more equal footing with other couples. Here's how these provisions can impact the lives of GLBT Americans: U.S.
The first provision, called "Non-Spousal Rollover"
- Allows the transfer of an individual's retirement plan benefits, like a 401(k), to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) for a non-spouse beneficiary like a domestic partner, sibling, parent, cousin or anyone else when the individual dies.
- In the past, unless you were the legally recognized spouse of the deceased, you were forced to withdraw the amount as a lump sum and you faced immediate tax penalties which would eat away at the savings amount intended for retirement.
The second provision, known as "Hardship Distribution":
- Allows individuals who list their same-sex partner or other non-spouse beneficiary under a 401(k) plan the ability to tap into their retirement funds in the case of certain medical or financial emergencies of the beneficiary.
- In the past, the federal law only permitted such withdrawals for employees' legally recognized spouses or dependents.
The email goes on to single out for thanks certain members of Congress who partnered with HRC in a truly cooperative spirit despite the very divisive times. And I wholeheartedly agree that these people should be recognized. But what was most surprising for me was seeing how many “R”s were sprinkled in the HRC email. And though everyone of these people deserve our deepest gratitude, I actually think those Republicans who stepped forward and helped make this a reality for the GLBT community deserve maybe a little extra recognition for doing the right thing in spite of possible repercussions to their political careers. That took courage, something I have not seen much of these past 5 ½ years.
I don’t know, but somehow this email gives me hope that one day soon the GLBT community will be enjoying the same rights and benefits that everyone else takes for granted. This bit of news today is more than just a baby step, it is a big victory.
Those in Congress who helped make this happen are:
Former Representative Rob Portman (R-OH), Representative Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ways & Means Committee Chairman Representative Bill Thomas (R-CA), Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Senator Max Baucus (R-MT) and Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT).
Gosh it feels good to finally feel some optimism. From the bottom of this Seething Mom’s heart --- Thank you to the men and women above who helped make this a reality for our gay loved ones!
Seems to be a consensus forming: