Thursday, April 23, 2009

Social Security Administration to Provide Benefits in Lambda Legal Case Representing Gay Father’s Children

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Observer Update) - In a letter received today, the Social Security Administration (SSA) reversed its prior determination to deny benefits to the children of a disabled gay father in Lambda Legal’s case representing the family against apparent anti gay discrimination by the federal government.

"This is long awaited relief for Gary Day and his children, who just want to be respected as the family that they are," said Beth Littrell, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. "The Social Security Administration is supposed to provide families with help in a time of need regardless of a parent’s sexual orientation. After three long years and a federal lawsuit, the SSA has finally come through for these children."

In February of 2006, Day completed the applications for Child Insurance Benefits for his children. He provided birth certificates and court documents that acknowledge him as a legal parent of the children. The SSA acknowledged that they received the application and promised to provide a response in 45 days.

After more than a year with no response, Lambda Legal sent a letter on Day's behalf seeking action by the agency. The SSA still did not provide an initial determination of eligibility citing unspecified "legal questions and policy issues" involved with the application. Day provided all the necessary documentation to establish a legitimate parent-child relationship and fulfilled all of the SSA's prerequisites, yet his family was left without the social safety net that Day had paid into for decades and that all other families are provided on a regular basis.

In May 2008, Lambda Legal, along with co-counsel from McDermott Will & Emery LLP, filed suit against the SSA compelling the agency to act on Day’s application and urging the SSA to recognize Day as a legal parent of the children. Today’s letter recognizes the legal relationship between Day and his children without discrimination based on his sexual orientation or family status.

"As a parent, it is my job to provide for my children. I am relieved to be able to fulfill my promise and also relieved that the SSA will provide the benefits my family needs, just as they do for other families."

"This case has always been about the welfare of Mr. Day’s children and protecting them from discrimination. We are pleased that the Social Security Administration finally realized that these children, like all children of individuals entitled to disability benefits, have legal rights to Government assistance. The sexual orientation of their parents is and should be irrelevant to such a determination," said co-counsel Lisa A. Linsky.

Beth Littrell, Staff Attorney, is Lambda Legal's lead attorney on this case, Gary Day v Social Security Administration. Lisa A. Linsky, Amy Beard and Betsy Philpott, of the law firm McDermott Will & Emery, LLP., are co-counsel with Lambda Legal on the case.

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