Government Keeps Door Open to Support for Lesbian and Gay Survivors of 9/11 Victims
(NEW YORK, Thursday, December 20, 2001) —Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Thursday welcomed as “encouraging” new federal regulations that open the door to compensation for surviving partners of lesbians and gay men killed in the September 11 attacks, but expressed disappointment that those partners were not explicitly recognized as spouses are.
“It is encouraging that the government has not excluded lesbian and gay partners and their children in helping all families that endured losses with this tragedy,” said Lambda Staff Attorney Jennifer Middleton. “But same-sex partners were not explicitly recognized, and they will still face hurdles with a more complicated and uncertain process toward assistance.”
Congress established the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to provide financial support to families whose relatives were killed or injured in the attacks. Regulations for disbursement of the multi-billion dollar fund released by Special Master Kenneth R. Feinberg allow for compensation for family members who do not fit into simple legal categories. Lambda had worried that lesbian and gay partners might have been excluded from the federal fund because same-sex couples cannot currently marry.
“In our hearts we were married,” said Keith Bradkowski whose long-term partner was a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11. “In the eyes of the law domestic partnership was as close as we could get to marriage, but I hope to be recognized in the same way other grieving spouses are recognized by this fund.”
Lambda’s Middleton added, “These regulations are giving lesbian and gay partners and their children an important new opportunity to secure protection from a federal safety net program.”
She wrote a letter on November 21 to Attorney General John Ashcroft, which was signed by five lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organizations, urging that the federal fund include lesbian and gay survivors. In the wake of September 11, entities such as the Red Cross and United Way as well as New York state’s Crime Victims Board have agreed to provide relief to same-sex partners on terms similar to those for surviving spouses.
Lambda Executive Director Kevin M. Cathcart said, “The government today has opened the door to support for gay people whose life partners were killed on September 11. This falls short of fair recognition for lesbian and gay relationships but it raises hope for important relief for these survivors.”
Contact: Amanda Scioscia 212-809-8585 x 241, 888-987-1971
Peg Byron, 212-809-8585 x 230, 888-987-1984
Jennifer Middleton 212-809-8585 x 213