The September 11 Relief Efforts and Surviving Same-Sex Partners: Reflections on Relationships in the Absence of Legal Recognition

16 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2006 Last revised: 3 Aug 2010

Nancy J. Knauer

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Date Written: August 2, 2010

Abstract

The criteria established by federal, state, and private relief efforts to assist the families of the victims of the September 11 attacks present a unique opportunity to examine the status of same-sex relationships in the United States. In the absence of uniform relationship recognition, surviving same-sex partners continue to struggle with a loss that legally is not cognizable. The stories from the September 11 survivors illustrate that a surviving partner is a legal stranger, who often must reconfigure her relationship with her partner to fit within the various legal categories where relief or compensation might be forthcoming. These legal categories generally do not provide recovery in recognition of the nature of her relationship with her partner, but rather in spite of the nature of the relationship. Loss experienced by a surviving same-sex partner in the United States continues to unfold against the backdrop of a persistent morality discourse that demonizes same-sex relationships and enshrines such sentiments in legislation and citizens' initiatives designed to protect traditional marriage. A surviving same-sex partner is denied the basic luxury of grieving because she must navigate a complicated legal system offering pockets of partial recognition and, at times, resort to litigation. The highly polarized nature of the debate regarding the recognition of same-sex relationships means that her very loss is contested and her mourning politicized.

Keywords: same-sex marriage, domestic partnership, civil union, LGBT, survivor benefit, surviving partner, wrongful death, mass tort, September 11, 9/11, victim compensation fund, DOMA, gay, lesbian, homosexuality, culture war, traditional values, homophobia, DOMA, Defense of Marriage Act, Mark Bingham

JEL Classification: J12, J78, K13

Suggested Citation

Knauer, Nancy J., The September 11 Relief Efforts and Surviving Same-Sex Partners: Reflections on Relationships in the Absence of Legal Recognition (August 2, 2010). Women's Rights Reporter, Vol. 26, p. 101, Winter 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=888786

Nancy J. Knauer (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215-204-1688 (Phone)
215-204-1185 (Fax)

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