Marcy Johnsen

Seattle, WA

My name is Marcy and I live in Seattle.  I’ve been a nurse since I was 16 years old, moving from nurse’s aide, to licensed practical nurse, to registered nurse.  Up until my retirement last year I worked I was a state employee at Fircrest School, serving medically fragile and developmentally disabled patients. I retired last year, and it will be another 7 years until I begin collecting Social Security, which means I only have my pension to rely on right now.

When it’s time to collect Social Security I won’t get my full benefits, and it’s not because I didn’t work or forgot to fill out a form.  It’s no clerical error either.

It’s because I’m in a relationship with a woman.  My partner and I have been together for 18 years, and we’ve built a life together with our children and grandchildren.  And now we’re left wondering what we’ll do if one of us passes away.

You would think that who I love wouldn’t affect my Social Security benefits but it does—along with the benefits of same-sex couples across the country.  If I had married a man, I would receive Social Security benefits in his name if he died so I could keep on paying my mortgage.  Instead, if one of us passes away we might not be able to keep the house we’ve lived in for 18 years because the federal government doesn’t recognize same sex partners and does not provide survivor benefits.  It’s as much an insult to our relationship as an economic hardship to the surviving partner.

Fortunately, my pension would provide my partner benefits.  My partner’s pension would provide me benefits too.  But Social Security is an essential part of our retirement, and it must be preserved.  Neither of our pensions don’t have cost of living adjustments so inflation will leave us poorer and poorer each year.  Social Security will be what keeps us out of poverty.

I would like to know that if I pass away before my partner that she would receive the same support as our straight friends do.  But until the federal government fixes this, she won’t. It simply isn’t fair, and this is not equality