Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Marriage Equality for People with Disabilities

Hi Folks, Lynn here at VSA Texas. While many Americans celebrated the SCOTUS ruling, legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states, I saw many Facebook posts from my friends in the disability community, stating that nothing has changed for them. There are still legal barriers to marriage between two people with disabilities. In doing research for this blog, I looked up a few disability advocacy groups and found some interesting information. I wrote this blog to encourage dialogue about the marriage inequality still present in the disability community in hopes that we can progress forward in marriage equality for all people.

On Facebook, the organization Marriage Equality for People with Disabilities shared Larry Drain's post:

Dear President Obama:
             “One of the quotes I heard in the last couple of days following the marriage equality case was something like ‘at last love can be love...’
            “It can't...
            “I write to you today about another marriage inequality, an inequality suffered by thousands and thousands, an inequality invisible and never talked about, an inequality no one fights to remedy, an inequality based on federal statute: the attack on marriage of the disabled and senior citizens.
            “Thousands and thousands of couples in this country find themselves unable to either get married or stay married because of the financial penalties imposed on them by federal law. It is unfair. It is wrong, and, whether it is legal or not, it is discrimination that hurts thousands of innocent American citizens.”

I also found the following information at

            “Getting married may affect your disability benefits in a variety of ways. This is largely dependent on what type of benefits you receive—Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
            “If you receive SSI benefits, you likely already know that eligibility is determined based on your income and financial resources. Once you get married, the SSA will ‘deem’ a portion of your spouse’s income to your record. Essentially, this means that they will consider your future husband or wife’s income to be your income as well. This may significantly reduce your monthly payment or even cause the SSA to terminate your benefits altogether. This is just one financial aspect that people with disabilities face.”

For more detailed information, you can request a pamphlet for SSI and SSDI explaining in detail your benefits and what affects your benefits directly from the Social Security Administration’s website at

Last, here are some personal thoughts from Dave Chapple, a gentleman with a disability that we all know well here at VSA Texas:

Dave and Kate
at their Commitment Ceremony

            “Kate and I were under the understanding that we could not get legally married because it would negatively affect our SSDI and Medicaid. So instead of having a legal wedding ceremony we had a commitment ceremony in front of our families, friends, and God and we have been living as husband and wife ever since. However, according to the state of Texas, we are just roommates. 
            “One day we were looking on line at Medicaid income limits for our future employment and we came across something about married couples. To our surprise, the limits were just about exactly the same as we have now without being married. So we wanted to look farther into the possibility of becoming legally married and contacted a special needs consultant and in turn, she contacted a disability attorney. With their help, it was determined getting legally married would not affect our benefits but as we did before we have to make sure we stay under the income limit. 
            “Like I said before, on June 1, 2013, we had a ceremony where we got committed to each other in front of our families, friends, and in God's eyes. On every August 4, we go to Joe's Crab Shack to celebrate our anniversary, our first date, and the love we have for each other. However, on this August 4, 2015, we are still going to Joe’s Crab Shack, but before our dinner, we are going to have a little ceremony to legalize our marriage and invite 50 of our family and friends to celebrate with us.”

While Dave is finally now able to make his marriage official, many other people with disabilities still face impossible barriers to get married. What about you? Are you married, or are you still waiting for the laws to change? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!

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