Real-Life Impact of DOMA, the Story of Ron Wallen

4/27/2011

Denied Social Security Because of "Defense of Marriage Act," Senior May Lose Home Shared with Partner of 58 Years

Freedom to Marry Video Documents DOMA's Real-Life Discrimination and Harm

Press Contact:
Jackie Yodashkin
Communications Manager, Freedom to Marry
jackie@freedomtomarry.org
917-620-4502

(Washington, DC, April 27, 2011) – Today, Freedom to Marry released a video, Why Ron Is Losing His Home: The Real Cost of the Defense of Marriage Act, chronicling the true-life impact of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) on 77 year old Ron Wallen following the death of his spouse and partner of 58 years, Tom Carrollo.  To view the video, click here.

“When two people love each other and enter the legal contract of marriage, the Federal government should respect that.  Today, there are tens of thousands of legally married same-sex couples in California, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein.  “These couples live their lives like all married people, sharing financial expenses and caring for each other, but the Federal government does not recognize their marriages because of the Defense of Marriage Act. That’s a mistake and it’s time for DOMA to be repealed.”

Ron and Tom, both veterans, married in California in 2008 before the freedom to marry was stripped away by Proposition 8.  Tom’s death on March 8, 2011 left Ron without income, apart from his $900/month social security check.  While grieving the loss of his husband, Ron now must also fight for access to Social Security Survivor's Benefits now being withheld from him by the federal government.  Surviving spouses are entitled to the higher of either their own Social Security payment or their deceased spouse’s; in Ron’s case, he should receive the $1,800/month benefit that Tom earned.   This $900 shortfall may cost Ron his home.  

“The so-called Defense of Marriage Act creates a ‘gay exception’ that has cruel consequences for the tens of thousands of loving and committed couples whose marriages are dishonored and discriminated against under DOMA – couples like Ron and Tom who spent their lives trying to protect and care for one another,” said Marc Solomon, National Campaign Director for Freedom to Marry.  “The Respect for Marriage Act would make sure that people like Ron have access to the same support any surviving spouse would have, and don’t face unfair harms such as Ron’s risk of losing the home he shared with the love of his life and partner of 58 years.”

Enacted in 1996, DOMA deprives legally married same-sex couples of federal respect for their marriages, meaning that they are denied the more than a thousand protections that the federal government accords all other married couples – including Social Security survivor benefits, tax fairness, access to health coverage, and recognition of family ties for immigration purposes.  DOMA is being challenged in several court cases around the country, and was held unconstitutional last year by a federal judge appointed by President Nixon.  The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal DOMA, and is the centerpiece of Freedom to Marry’s campaign to end federal marriage discrimination.

The video, Why Ron Is Losing His Home, was produced and directed by John Fitzgerald Keitel.


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Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage nationwide. We are pursuing our Roadmap to Victory by working to win the freedom to marry in more states, grow the national majority for marriage, and end federal marriage discrimination. We partner with individuals and organizations across the country to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the protections, responsibilities, and commitment that marriage brings.