Survivors of Terrorist Victims Granted Domestic Partnership Benefits?

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - Homosexual partners of those who died in the September 11 terrorist attacks are now eligible to receive relief funds from organizations who, along with Congress, are beginning to redefine the definition of family in the United States.

Domestic partnership status has been watched closely in recent weeks. Congress voted overwhelmingly last week in favor of legislation that would allow the District of Columbia to spend local funds to establish domestic partner benefits, while the American Red Cross announced it would give benefits to homosexuals who lost partners in the September 11 attack.

"Red Cross is a neutral and impartial organization and we help people who need help. So, we don't help with regards to race, creed, color, religion and sexual orientation. We help people who need to be helped," Stacey Grissom, media relations associate for the Red Cross, said.

Grissom said the Red Cross is working with employers to locate information on victims' nearest living relatives. "So in those cases where the next of kin is listed as a domestic partner, that would be a person who would definitely get benefits," she said.

Other large relief agencies such as the United Way are sending donations to victim service organizations that in turn have indicated they will offer financial assistance to homosexual domestic partners, News reported.

Matt Foreman, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, said his group had received commitments from several relief organizations to assist homosexuals who had lost their domestic partner in the attacks.

"We have had some success. On the positive side, everyone we have contacted has been very receptive and sympathetic and saying they really want to do the right thing for everyone," Foreman said.

"On the negative side, what we're finding is most of these funds, including the Red Cross, had no written guidelines, at least that they could provide to govern the granting of benefits to gay survivors or common-law heterosexual partners or the children of people in either one of those situations," he said.

Foreman said while the issue of domestic partnerships is not new, the size and scope of the September 11 attacks is forcing relief agencies to deal with domestic partnerships on a whole new level.

"I think that one positive thing that will come out of this tragedy is that all of these relief organizations will have to grapple with this issue and come up with a policy to guide their staff," Foreman said.

Domestic partners still cannot receive government-funded relief in the forms of social security or worker's compensation, according to Foreman.

"No matter what kind of work we do and no matter how successful we are with the Red Cross, with United Way, with these various relief funds, gay and lesbian survivors are still going to face a huge inequity," Foreman said. "No matter what work we do, we're not going to be able to get them to tap into the key long-term government supported programs."

Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, said money should not be granted to homosexuals who lost partners in the attack.

"[Relief organizations] should be first giving priority to those widows who were at home with their babies, and those widowers who lost their wives," Sheldon said. "It should be given on the basis and priority of one man and one woman in a marital relationship.

"This is just another example of how the gay agenda is seeking to overturn the one man-one woman relationship from center stage in America, taking advantage of this tragedy," he said.

Sheldon said any money given to domestic partners could open a door for homosexual advocates to go to any court and call attention to the fact that relief organizations are recognizing homosexual relationships and traditional marriage on the same level.

"There is no question that groups like the Empire State Pride Agenda would very much like to redefine what marriage is and how marriage functions and who enters into marriage," he said.