Friday, August 18, 2006

Kentucky Equality Praises Progress; New Federal Pension Law Includes Measures for the LGBT Community.

The Kentucky Equality Federation (formerly officially called Kentucky Equality Association) sent letters of praise to U.S. Senator Gordon Smith (R) from the State of Oregon, and U.S. Representative Benjamin L. Cardin (D) from the State of Maryland for their strong support of the new Federal Pension Protection Act, and U.S. President George Bush for signing the legislation into law.

The letter campaign also included letters to Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign whose organization lobbied Congress to pass the measure, and David Ratcliffe, National co-leader of Merrill Lynch's LGBT Professional Network.

The legislation, with strong bipartisan support received final approval on August 3, 2006.

The first provision allows the transfer of an individual's retirement plan benefits to a domestic partner or other non-spouse beneficiary including a sibling or parent when the individual dies. Specifically, the surviving partner, or other non-spouse beneficiary, will now be able to transfer his or her deceased partner's retirement funds into an Individual Retirement Account and either draw down the benefits over a five-year period, or over his or her own life expectancy.

In the past, surviving same-sex partners or other non-spouse beneficiaries in similar situations were typically forced to withdraw the entire amount as a lump sum and incur immediate tax charges. In addition, this action often bumped the survivor into a higher tax bracket because the withdrawal was counted as taxable income to the beneficiary.

The second provision, which addresses retirement plan hardship distributions, allows gay couples and others with non-spouse, non-dependent beneficiaries, similar access to laws that permit people to draw on their retirement funds in the case of a qualifying medical or financial emergency. In the past, the federal law covered only the spouses or dependents of employees when it came to accessing retirement funds during an emergency.

Though we have yet to find common ground on various other issues, it is good to see that Congress hasn’t forgotten their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered constituents in other areas of the law,” stated Paige D. Marks, general counsel for Kentucky Equality.

Jordan Palmer, president of the Kentucky Equality Federation stressed the importance of praising elected officials when they take positive steps toward progress. “I’m certain these officials will come under fire from ultra-conservatives; all the more reason they need our praise, so that we’re not just contacting them to complain about something,” stated Palmer.

The Kentucky Equality Federation also thanked the following state delegates to the federal government for their bipartisan support, including former U.S. Representative Rob Portman (R-OH), U.S. Representative Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ways & Means Committee Chairman Representative Bill Thomas (R-CA), U.S. Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), U.S. Senator Max Baucus (R-MT), and U.S. Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT).


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