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.
An Albuquerque man who was denied Social Security benefits from his deceased husband intends to bring the issue to federal court. Anthony Gonzales* married his long-time partner Mark Johnson in 2013 in a mass public wedding in downtown Albuquerque. It was the first time same sex couples could legally marry in Bernalillo County**. Almost six months later, Johnson died from cancer. When Gonzales initially filed his claim for Johnson’s benefits, the Social Security Administration denied his request on the grounds that he and Johnson were married for less than nine months, the minimum time required to qualify for benefits.
Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham is asking the head of the Social Security Administration to suspend a move of an office to a downtown Albuquerque call center. The move is scheduled for August 3, less than a week from today but Lujan Grisham says a lack of parking and outreach over the move shows that this should be delayed. Lujan Grisham wrote a letter to U.S. Social Security Administration Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin requested the delay and noted she had previously told Regional Commissioner Sheila Everett about her concerns in a previous visit. New Mexico Political Report spoke with Lujan Grisham about the surprise visit she made to the current offices in early July. The second-term member of Congress described people waiting outside with “no shade, no chairs, no benches, no anything.”