Protesters chanting slogans and carrying signs marched in Hollywood Sunday to demand equal Social Security benefits for same-sex couples.
About 700 peaceful demonstrators walked more than a mile to rally outside the Hollywood Social Security Administration office, said Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center.
"This was the kickoff for a national campaign to end discrimination when it comes to Social Security," Jean said. "We not only have to educate the straight community, but we have to educate our own. Many don't know how it works until they're older and faced with having been denied benefits."
Before the march, U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez told the cheering crowd she would author legislation that would extend survivor benefits to older gay and lesbian couples.
"We now have quality, affordable health care coming to all," Sanchez said. "What good is the quality of our health care in America if Americans are not treated equally under all of our laws?"
U.S. Rep. Judy Chu offered to co-author the bill. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer also spoke.
Senior citizen Alice Herman spoke about being denied benefits after the death of her partner, Sylvia, even though they were legally married. Had Sylvia been a man, Herman said, she would have been entitled to receive her spouse's larger Social Security payments.
"This has got to change," Herman said.
The Gay & Lesbian Center cites research from the University of California, Los Angeles, that found that the lack of eligibility for Social Security benefits cost the surviving partners of same-sex couples an average of $5,700 per year.
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