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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 6 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 23
Gay widower sues Bayer for survivor benefits
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Gay widower sues Bayer for survivor benefits

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) has filed a federal lawsuit against pharmaceutical giant Bayer on behalf of a Gay widower who was denied survivor benefits that would normally be paid to spouses of Bayer employees.

Gerald Passaro married his partner of more than 13 years, Thomas Buckholz, on November 26, 2008 shortly after same-sex couples gained equal marriage rights in Connecticut. Buckholz died of lymphoma less than two months later, and Passaro applied for survivor benefits from his employer, Bayer, where his late husband had worked as a chemist for more than 20 years.

In 2009, Bayer turned him down, saying that its employee benefits package is administered under federal law, and therefore DOMA prevented them from recognizing Passaro as a legal spouse entitled to benefits.

As a result, Passaro then became one of the defendants in Pedersen v. OPM, one of several federal lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of DOMA.

After DOMA was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in USA v. Windsor, Passaro again applied for survivor benefits, but Bayer turned him down once again.

'Despite the fact that DOMA has been found unconstitutional, Bayer continues to deny benefits to Jerry even though its pension plan provides benefits to all surviving spouses, and even though federal law (ERISA) mandates pension benefits for surviving spouses under plans like Bayer's,' GLAD director Gary Buseck said.

'Bayer has turned a deaf ear to its legal and moral obligation to the widower of a dedicated employee, who is in need of this basic support that his husband earned.'

Bayer has not yet responded to the suit.

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