Friday, October 20, 2006


Dean HaraGerry Studds, America's first openly gay member of Congress, died last week. Now his surviving spouse, Dean Hara, has become the first congressional spouse to be denied death benefits.

Mr. Hara and Representative Studds were married under Massachusetts' 2004 law permitting marriages without regard to the sex of the partners. The federal "Defense of Marriage Act" of 1996 (sorry, the quotation marks must stay) denies Mr. Hara the benefits he would be due as Representative Studds's surviving spouse -- if only Mr. Hara were female. Representative Studds had been receiving an annual pension worth an estimated $114,337. The fatuous "Defense of Marriage Act" is stripping $62,000 a year from Mr. Hara, for no evident reason besides spite.

Bob NeyMeanwhile, Representative Bob Ney, who is awaiting sentencing for selling his congressional office to the highest bidder, stands to receive his full congressional pension. Indeed, he's still collecting $3,176 a week. Evidently Congress hasn't gotten around to blocking convicted members among its ranks from collecting pensions.

There are many words one could use to describe this sordid state of affairs. The one I'll choose is shabby.


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