CIVIL RIGHTS -- HUSBAND OF DECEASED FIRST OPENLY GAY CONGRESSMAN DENIED PENSION BENEFITS:
From the Center for American Progress
"Gerry Studds, the nation's first openly gay congressman, pushed the country to another landmark development when he died Saturday," the Lowell Sun reports. The federal government "for the first time will deny death benefits to a congressman's gay spouse." Studds and husband Dean Hara were partnered for 15 years and married in Massachusetts in 2004. "Wives and husbands of deceased lawmakers have for years found financial comfort in their ability to collect more than half of the generous congressional pension earned by their late spouse"; Hara would have received $62,000 a year from Studds' pension program. But under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government does not recognize state gay marriage laws like the one in Massachusetts, and federal benefits normally passed along to surviving spouses are specifically limited to "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife." Meanwhile, criminal former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) and Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), who just pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges, will continue to collect their congressional pensions while they serve their time in prison.