Gay and Lesbian Partners Can Apply for Federal Victims Compensation
Regulations Announced Today by DOJ Special Master Kenneth Feinberg
(WASHINGTON, DC) – Gay and lesbian partners of those killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States will be able to apply to the federal victims compensation fund for relief under regulations issued today by the fund's Special Master, Kenneth Feinberg, a former chief of staff to Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) named by Attorney General John Ashcroft last month to oversee the fund.
Broadly written definitions of claimants in the regulations permit same-sex partners to receive benefits as relatives and/or dependents of victims, if they are deemed so by the Special Master or under "applicable law" such as state law. Personal representatives, such as attorneys for the victims and claimants, are also required to provide notice to persons with "a reasonable interest" in relief, which same-sex partners clearly are – particularly those registered under state or local jurisdictions as domestic partners.
Congress directed the Justice Department to make rules for how the claims should be heard and gave broad discretion to the Special Master, requiring him to award funds based on individual circumstances. Feinberg will therefore consider the merits of each same-sex partner claim under the regulations, and can provide recovery to same-sex partners based on a variety of determining factors. The Special Master can also grant equal funding to same-sex partners as married spouses would receive should he determine the partner was a "dependent" of the victim.
"Gay and lesbian survivors will get relief from the fund, and we applaud the Justice Department and Ken Feinberg for achieving this important federal milestone," said Rich Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. "We would have preferred that the regulations were more specific and the recovery process simpler, but we are fully confident that Ken Feinberg, on behalf of the Bush Administration, will settle every case fairly and equitably."
"All of us who worked on this effort from all political points of view should continue to work together to make sure that the survivors get relief," Tafel said. "They are the only consideration in an issue that transcends politics."
"We thank Governor George Pataki (R-NY) and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R-NYC) for their personal lobbying and strong support for ensuring that gay and lesbian partners would get relief from the federal fund, and for all the work they've done in creating a successful and inclusive victims compensation model in New York," Tafel said. "Gay and lesbian Americans everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to them both for their leadership."
Mayor Giuliani ushered through a domestic partnership law in New York City in 1998, and Governor Pataki has issued a series of executive orders protecting same-sex partner rights in state employment, and equal compensation before the state victims compensation board.
"We also applaud the exceptional leadership of Matt Foreman, Joe Grabarz and the Empire State Pride Agenda of New York from September 11 forward on this issue," Tafel said. "Their partnership with Mayor Giuliani and Governor Pataki was extremely important and we thank them for their hard work."