LOS ANGELES — California and local officials joined hundreds of people outside of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center in Hollywood on Sunday morning to kick off a national grass-roots campaign demanding equal Social Security benefits for same-sex couples.
The rally and march — dubbed Rock for Equality — was put together by the center and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in conjunction with the Aids Community Action Foundation, said Jim Key, a spokesman for the center.
At the rally, Rep. Linda T. Sanchez, D-Calif., who is a member of the House Subcommittee on Social Security, announced that she would sponsor legislation to provide equal Social Security benefits for same-sex couples.
"I don't think it's right that Americans should be treated differently by the country they love because of who they love," she said, triggering thunderous applause and cheers from the crowd. "Right now, same-sex marriage couples pay equally into a system that they don't receive equal benefits from in return. Shame on this country for allowing that to happen."
As of now, people in same-sex relationships are denied Social Security survivor benefits from their deceased partners because the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages or domestic partnerships as valid relationships.
Sanchez's bill calls for the Social Security Administration to recognize those civil unions or domestic partnerships as valid relationships for the purpose of disbursing survivor benefits that heterosexual couples with a marriage certificate now receive.
"I'm saying to the Social Security Administration, this must stop," Sanchez said.
Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., who also attended the event, offered to co-author the bill.
"In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act as a law to protect the elderly from poverty. It was a great moment, but the act wasn't perfect," Chu told the crowd.