Anthony Gonzales* met his future husband, Mark Johnson, at an Albuquerque gay bar, twenty years ago this month. Soon after, Gonzales and Johnson moved in and began their life together. In 2013, they made their union legally binding when they joined hundreds of other couples on Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza on the first day counties across New Mexico began legally recognizing same sex marriages. Almost six month later, 180 days to be exact, Johnson died of cancer. Now, just weeks before his wedding anniversary, Gonzales has filed a federal civil suit against the U.S. Government’s Social Security Administration for the monetary benefits he said he is owed.
U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham introduced a bill Friday that would amend the Social Security Act to include some married, same sex couples that currently do not qualify for survivor’s benefits. Named for an Albuquerque resident, the Anthony Gonzales Equality for Survivors (AGES) Act, the bill would add alternatives for those who were not married for the minimum nine months in order to receive their deceased partner’s benefits. Related story: ABQ widower from same-sex marriage denied social security benefits
While keeping the nine-month requirement, the bill would allow applicants to provide “a sworn affidavit that the widow or widower was in a domestic partnership with such individual throughout the 9-month period ending on the date of the individual’s death.”
The bill’s namesake said Lujan Grisham’s office called and told him the congresswoman introduced the bill. He didn’t, however, know his name was included. “I’m shocked,” Gonzales said when NM Political Report called for comment.
New Mexico legislators want the Department of Justice to look into the behavioral health shakeup from 2013 after the state Attorney General found no fraud. Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez of Belen, House Minority Leader Brian Egolf of Albuquerque, all Democrats, sent the letter. The three received letters from providers who had Medicaid funding cut by the state, and forwarded these letters to the three members of the U.S. House and two members of the U.S. Senate from New Mexico. “The contents of these letters greatly concern us,” the three legislative leaders wrote. “We have also been contacted by constituents, requesting our assistance with accessing behavioral health services over the past two years.”
Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham is asking the Social Security Administration to change a policy that states a couple must be married for nine months before a spouse is able to collect benefits from the deceased partner. The letter stems from and specifically references an Albuquerque man who was denied federal benefits earned by his deceased husband. Anthony Gonzales* married Mark Johnson in a downtown Albuquerque mass wedding ceremony** in August 2013 that celebrated the first day of legal same-sex marriage recognition in Bernalillo County. Just six months later, Johnson died from cancer. After his husband’s death, Gonzales applied for survivors benefits through the federal Social Security Administration.