Kudos to President Bush for signing this bill.
It is a great and historic day for our community. Today, federal legislation called the Pension Protection Act was signed into law and it includes two provisions that extend important financial protections to more Americans - including same-sex couples. This is an incredibly exciting victory that will be helpful to millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families.
This Act is important because it has two hard-fought HRC-backed provisions that we lobbied for intensely and secured its inclusion. These provisions will help same-sex couples nationwide. Basically what this means is that these two provisions ensure that the U.S. tax code, in times of emergencies, is fairer to more Americans, including our community, and puts us on a more equal footing with other couples. Here's how these provisions can impact the lives of GLBT Americans:
The first provision, called "Non-Spousal Rollover"
* Allows the transfer of an individual's retirement plan benefits, like a 401(k), to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) for a non-spouse beneficiary like a domestic partner, sibling, parent, cousin or anyone else when the individual dies.
* In the past, unless you were the legally recognized spouse of the deceased, you were forced to withdraw the amount as a lump sum and you faced immediate tax penalties which would eat away at the savings amount intended for retirement.
The second provision, known as "Hardship Distribution":
* Allows individuals who list their same-sex partner or other non-spouse beneficiary under a 401(k) plan the ability to tap into their retirement funds in the case of certain medical or financial emergencies of the beneficiary.
* In the past, the federal law only permitted such withdrawals for employees' legally recognized spouses or dependents.
For more details on how the two provisions can help you and your family, please visit our website at: www.hrc.org/estateplanning. Also, be sure to keep a close eye on your inbox later this month because we will be sending you information about an online chat with a financial expert that we will be hosting. The Q&A with this expert will be all about the Pension Protection Act and how it pertains to GLBT families.
I hope that you are as proud as I am of the HRC team and all their work to make this happen. As a member of the Human Rights Campaign, your support provided the resources and the critical momentum necessary to achieve this historic victory for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. I can't thank you enough for your lasting commitment to this work.
We should also thank our allies in Congress - Democrats, Republicans and Independents like former Representative Rob Portman (R-OH), Representative Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ways & Means Committee Chairman Representative Bill Thomas (R-CA), Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Senator Max Baucus (R-MT) and Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT) - who partnered with us and did so with a cooperative spirit that is truly special in the current divisive political climate.
I hope you'll take a few moments to reflect on this enormous victory, join us in celebrating our big win, and know that you are making a difference.
Joe Solmonese signature
President, Human Rights Campaign