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Karen Ocamb

Rock for Equality's video "What Kind of Planet Are We On?" up for YouTube's DoGooder Award - Please Vote!

Filed By Karen Ocamb | April 04, 2010 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: LA Gay and Lesbian Center, Rock for Equality, Social Security discrimination

Science Fiction has always intrigued me in how it can get to the heart of a contemporary issue through an other-worldly story. Rock-for-Equality-logo1In February, I posted a video from the LA Gay & Lesbian Center's important Rock for Equality campaign. That video - "What Kind of Planet Are We On?" - has been nominated for YouTube's DoGooder Award.

See the video below.

The moving video features a lesbian alien name Rita who struggles after her partner dies. She applies for Social Security benefits and just as it looks like she's going to get help, she's denied after telling the administrator her partner was a woman. It is happening now to lesbians and gays all over America.

The video is in the top 16 videos out of 750 for the award - a $10,000 prize which the Center would put towards fighting Social Security discrimination. Perhaps more importantly, winning earns a spot on YouTube's homepage which means Rita's story - our story - could reach millions of people.

Please vote at: http://kl.am/9UO8. You can vote once each day between now and Wednesday, April 7, when voting closes at 9 p.m. Pacific! Don't forget to share via Facebook and Twitter to help spread the word!

Meanwhile - meet our sister Rita:

This was crossposted at LGBT POV.


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Done. I'd posted that video earlier this year too. It's a gem; it was a damn good production. I'm happy to vote for it.

Karen,

I'd be curious to know what you, and/or perhaps others in the Rock for Equality Campaign have to say about law professor and fellow Bilerico contributor Nancy Polikoff's very insightful take on the issue.

http://www.bilerico.com/2010/02/la_gay_lesbian_center_and_ngltf_lead_misguided_act.php

Some highlights from her piece:

"...there's an enormous problem with this action; its success would help only one subset of same-sex couples, those in which one partner earns most of the income. All the other same-sex couples would continue to face *the discrimination that equal earning heterosexual couples now face.* They put more into the system and get less out of it than couples who fit the one breadwinner model of 1939, the year spousal benefits were added to Social Security." (asterisks mine)

And:

"But to support Rock for Equality I would have to say that I want same-sex couples in which one partner has earned most of the income to get more out of Social Security than same-sex couples where the partners have similar incomes. And I don't want that."

It's interesting that Rita's wife was a doctor - she was clearly the one making a lot more.

You can read the rest here:

http://www.bilerico.com/2010/02/la_gay_lesbian_center_and_ngltf_lead_misguided_act.php

This seems to be like the famous estate tax, which only affects estates valued at over $3.5 million, as Polikoff's work also indicates (and let's face it, estates worth that much SHOULD be taxed). This appears to be something that needs to be revamped, not something that needs to be preserved so that the few may benefit over the many.

The rest of Polikoff's piece can be found here:

http://www.bilerico.com/2010/02/la_gay_lesbian_center_and_ngltf_lead_misguided_act.php


Bella De Paolo has some excellent work on how social security discriminates against those who are not in coupled relationships:

http://www.belladepaulo.com/

Or, as she put in in an editorial, "Singles Shall Overcome," (found on her website):

"There is even legalized discrimination at the time of death. Social Security benefits
earned by a married worker can be paid to a spouse; the same benefits earned by a single
worker go back into the system."

Her book Singled Out is essential reading for people who'd like to know more about these issues.

And that should be Bella DePaulo, not Bella De Paolo, aargh. No more commenting without caffeine. And Bella, if you should read this: I am mortified and apologetic!

Hey Yasmin.

First, I'm not part of the Rock for Equality campaign - I'm just trying to get the word out about it. I'll onpass your request to those who are involved in the campaign.

While I intellectually understand the point you're raising - I am also moved by the very real circumstances of one elderly loved one losing their house or apartment because they lived on two incomes and one of those incomes is gone and there not enough to pay the mortgage or rent. That's happening here in LA.

In fact it was just one such story about an older lesbian who was living out of her care after her partner died and she lost everything and came to the LA Gay & Lesbian Center for help - that brought the issue home to CEO Lorri Jean - who launched this effort. Lorri helped that lesbian find affordable housing.

BTW - some of those stories are shared in other videos at the Center's Rock for Equality page, noted in the story.

Thanks for the response.

I asked you to respond because I assumed that your posting this meant that you understand the campaign and support it.

I understand the force of the stories. But that shouldn't stop us from pausing and thinking before we spend so much time and resources on a manipulative campaign that makes it seem like this is something that affects *every* queer relationship, and when the matter of social security disbursements is fundamentally unfair to so many couples, straight and queer, and to so many singles. The campaign and the video are disingenuous.

It's absolutely unfair that someone should be thrown out on the streets after a partner dies, but supporting and fostering a system that ensures that this will happen to many others while protecting the few whose incomes ensure that this won't happen to them is the wrong way to go about it. What this campaign is saying, in effect, is: "We don't really care about the fact that couples where both people make around the same are going to 'put more into the system and get less out of it than couples who fit the one breadwinner model of 1939, the year spousal benefits were added to Social Security.' We just want to make sure that the more archaic form of couple (a minority, but a relatively wealthy minority) are protected."

This smacks of the same class privilege as the estate tax campaign. I put that link to Polikoff's piece out there because I wanted to remind people that not every queer couple has the same kind of disproportional relationship (in terms of income) and that not everyone stands to benefit from this campaign. I'm reminded of the estate tax campaign which has persuaded hordes of gays and lesbians that the dreaded tax would actually affect them when, in fact, it affects a small minority. Not to mention that such estates *should* be taxed in the first place.

I trust that watching or reading about poignant stories will not disallow people from exercising their critical faculties and questioning the priorities of the Rock for Equality Campaign.

I'm interested in seeing how the campaign responds to Nancy Polikoff's critique.

That video has surprisingly good production value for a YouTube production.

But, yeah, what Yasmin says. I remember an NYT article a few months ago that tried to calculate how much more or less a same-sex couple would pay over their lifetimes than a married straight couple, and a couple that made about the same amount of money throughout their lives actually paid less if they didn't marry. Still, the headlines were always about how the gays pay so much more because of the tax and social security and health care benefits the gay couple where one person made a lot more didn't receive.

It's strange how the NYT story that included all the facts got spun after the fact, and it seems like the same thing is going on here with Rock for Equality. We're being told that it's for our own good that this law be changed to include same-sex couples in the same unequal basis as everyone else is accepted, but I'm unlikely to ever be with anyone for a long period of time who'll make a lot more money than me. The distinction isn't, as the video implies, about same-sex vs. opposite couples.

Not that the unfairness in the present system is OK. It's just that this video seems to be anti-equality in general, pro-equality in this one specific case. Plus I don't really see the point of the "we're both natural born, US citizens line, unless it's just anti-immigrant rhetoric. There are plenty of non-citizens who pay into social security, and plenty of not natural born US citizens who deserve equal pay back after a life's work (including my mom).