After yesterday’s profile of Ron Wallen, it occurred to me you’d like to meet another widower drastically affected by the Defense of Marriage Act. Private employers’ — and federal government agencies’ — human resources policies use their pension plans to enshrine DOMA-based discrimination against legally married couples and surviving spouses. This discrimination hugely affects survivors’ quality of life, in a way that simply does not happen to opposite-sex couples.
Meet Andrew Sorbo, with his partner for 30 years and married for only four short months.
Colin Atterbury and Andrew Sorbo were married by two minister friends at their home in Cheshire, Connecticut, on Jan. 14, 2009. There was just one other guest, Andrew and Colin’s oldest friend Francis O’Connor, who served as ring bearer. But while weddings herald the start of a long life together for most couples, their intimate ceremony was, sadly, the final chapter of Colin’s and Andrew’s 30-year committed relationship. Colin, 66, was gravely ill with pancreatic cancer; he passed away just four months after the wedding.
The couple spent some of that time organizing their finances so Andrew wouldn’t be left in the cold, because he wasn’t eligible to collect the widows’ portion of Colin’s VA pension.
Because DOMA would prevent Andrew from receiving Colin’s federal pension and lifetime spousal health insurance coverage, they had begun saving and investing what they could. It was a wise move: after Colin’s death, DOMA effectively reduced Andrew’s monthly income by 80 percent. The $8000 he pays annually for health insurance represents a third of his $24,000 annual pension.
Andrew is grateful that Colin’s higher income allowed them to save and plan accordingly. “If he were a teacher like me, I would be in real trouble, because I basically don’t get anything from my years teaching in the Catholic school, and I only get a small pension from my eighteen years in the public schools. If I were a woman I would inherit part of his $80,000- plus annual pension. There would be no issue.”
Read Colin and Andrew’s story at the website of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. It’s a story of young love and a life well-lived together.
Andrew will testify at next week’s DOMA hearing. Why our federal government sees fit to make these men second-class citizens escapes me.