Marriage Equality: Celebrating Disability Pride Month with SOGI & AARC


Marriage Equality: Celebrating Disability Pride Month with SOGI & AARC

by Kara Hopkins
Posted July 30, 2021

As folks know we’ve been celebrating Disability Pride month this July.  Disability Pride started right here in Boston. In July of 1990, shortly after the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed, we celebrated the first Disability Pride Day in an effort to decrease the stigma associated with having a disability.

We wanted to highlight an issue important to the disability community right now, marriage equality. Marriage equality is often thought of in regards to same sex marriage but it’s equally important to think of marriage equality for folks in the disability community.

Same sex marriage became legal on a federal level in June 2015 when the Supreme Court struck down all state level bans on same sex marriage. This decision was a long time in the making, starting in the early 1970’s. Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same sex marriage in 2004 and other states slowly followed in the subsequent decade. This was an incredible win for the LGBTQ community but it’s important to remember that this change did not provide marriage equality for all; disabled members of the LGBTQ community were left out of that victory.

Folks within the disability community still face obstacles to marriage.  Many people with disabilities rely on Social Security benefits as their primary source of income; when people with disabilities choose to marry, they are required to report this change. This action causes a review of benefits, which leads to a decrease in the amount of money the person receives every month, which can feel like a penalty for people with disabilities who want to get married. This decrease in benefits happens in relationships where both individuals are disabled as well as relationships where only one individual is.

There is currently action being taken to change this reality.  Two state representatives, Massachusetts’ own Bill Keating (D), alongside New York’s John Katko (R) introduced bipartisan legislation that hopes to address this issue.  The Marriage Access for People with Special Abilities (MAPSA) Act would effectively end the unfair decrease in SSI when two people with disabilities get married.  Under this act, instead of being required to provide information on their spouse’s income, recertification of a person’s benefits will solely rely on a review of their own individual income & resources.

What Can We Do to Help?

If you’re interested in learning more please explore the following resources:

This newsletter was a collaboration between SOGI & AARC; written by Erin Munroe (SOGI) & Irene Moutsoulas (AARC).

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