Joanne Butler

DOMA Decision: Equal Protection For All In Social Security

A recent Wall Street Journal article noted the Social Security Administration’s struggle to cope with last week’s Supreme Court ruling regarding gay marriage. In its ruling, the Court said federal agencies managing federal benefits programs -- e.g., social security widow/widower’s benefits -- need to look at the marriage laws of the claimant’s state of residence, not where the person was married. Some have noted that this situation presents an issue of equal protection. That may be true, but the truth is that “equal protection” is currently a very flexible notion at the SSA.Let’s go back to the social security widow/widower’s benefits and gay spouses issue for a moment. Edie and Ida get married in Massachusetts, which recognizes gay marriage, they later move to Texas, which doesn’t. Edie dies in Texas; Ida applies for widow’s benefits at a social security office in Texas. Per the SCOTUS ruling, Ida’s application is rejected because Texas did not recognize Edie and Ida’s marriage. If Ida had moved back to Massachusetts, or any other state that recognizes gay marriage, and filed for benefits there, her application would have been accepted. The “equal protection” argument says that, as national federal benefits are involved, Ida should be treated the same way in every state.

Farm Bill's Defeat Gives Breathing Space For Reform

Last Thursday’s surprise defeat of the House farm bill resulted in a litany of finger-pointing from the lobbyists on K Street to the House Ag staffers in the Longworth Building.But they’re looking for blame in all the wrong places. It really belongs to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan -- and many other Republicans and conservatives -- who said so many times last year that America was going broke. If we are really going broke, then why did the bill maintain generous subsidies for agriculture?The Republican House members, including Ryan, who voted against the bill, took last year’s “broke” message to heart and should be congratulated for their fortitude.

Thanks to Human Gene Ruling, Women Will Have More Knowledge

Last Thursday’s Supreme Court decision about the limits of obtaining patents on human genes was somewhat personal for me. Like Angelina Jolie, I, too, had that BRCA gene test. Unlike Jolie, my test results were good. I feel very fortunate to have been able to afford the test. If it’s made widely available, it would be beneficial for thousands, if not millions of women. To use a poker analogy, with the BRCA information, women will have more knowledge of how their cancer deck is stacked.For me, it started with a genetic counselor giving me a questionnaire during my annual breast exam: Did my mother have breast cancer? Answer, yes. My maternal grandmother? Yes, again. Did I ever have cancer? Yes, colon. It was decision time: Did I want to know if I had the BRCA gene or not?

My Afternoon With Chuck Hagel

I can only marvel at how faded pols suddenly become white-hot in the blink of an eye. Take former Senator Chuck Hagel, for instance.

Mitch Daniels To The Rescue?

John Boehner, I feel your pain. Everybody seems to be ganging up on you. If it’s not President Barack Obama, it’s Harry Reid in the Senate, or Tom Friedman and his journalistic acolytes, or even some members of your own caucus.

This Election Is The Most Important

In October 2004, in a D.C. hotel ballroom crowded with ambitious politicos, George W. Bush’s campaign manager Ken Mehlman was at the podium, shouting and gesturing like a televangelist.

Lilly Ledbetter Act Meaningless To Women Without Jobs

One could assume, after President Barack Obama mentioned the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 during Tuesday night’s presidential debate, that it is a magical talisman ensuring women get equal pay for equal work.

Head Faking The 2012 Farm Bill

With last week's hubbub over Condoleezza Rice as possible veep, you may have missed how a House Republican group took legislative action to increase government subsidies to the one percent.

Romney Exhibits Political Savvy In Rejecting Obama-Wright Attack Ad

Mitt Romney?s rejection of a Super-Pac?s proposed anti-Obama campaign featuring Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the president?s former pastor, demonstrates that Romney has more political sense than the Super-Pac?s big daddy, Joe Ricketts, a longtime conservative donor and founder of TD Ameritrade.