Monday, August 8, 2011

Knowing Your Rights Is the First Step to Being Your Own Advocate For Change

Hana Tauber, Community Engagement Coordinator

In the Public Affairs and Education wing of GLAD we are always so delighted when we can provide information that helps people successfully fight for their rights. Information is power, and it is our job to spread the word in the community about what legal protections exist to protect people no matter what their sexual orientation, HIV status or gender identity might be. As educators and advocates, we are excited when community members take the law under their arm and advocate for themselves.

A week ago we got a call on the InfoLine from a same-sex married couple who were denied spousal health insurance by a Massachusetts public entity. This couple knew that something was wrong.

Our callers made a strong impression on us since they handled the situation with such determination. They remembered all of the names of the people that they spoke to; they were asking clear and directed questions; they had a timeline of events; and they called all ends of the spectrum from the insurance company, to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, to GLAD.

We were able to guide them through some steps to challenge the information that they were given. Sometimes simply requesting a denial in writing is enough to cause authorities to take a closer look at their decisions and correct them. Massachusetts authorities realized, a little late, that they cannot deny state, country or municipal employees same-sex spousal health benefits.

When they won health insurance coverage for the spouse, they thanked us by sending a fruit, cracker and cheese basket. This was the first time that we ever received a gift from one of our InfoLine callers, and we were, well, just touched. They wrote to us saying that:

Your team at GLAD talked us through every step of the process to get us to where we needed to be, which was having my employer provide health insurance for my wife in addition to myself. We have never encountered such cooperation and compassion while getting correct information based on the law and our rights as a same-sex married couple with which to combat the inaccurate information being given to me by my employer.

Thank you to this amazing couple, to our volunteers, to our legal team for having our back, and to the community for turning to us for information.

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