September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
October 31, 2001
Dear Attorney General Ashcroft:
I write to express my concern that all victims of the September 11th attacks receive equal treatment in applications for relief under the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001. I urge that the regulations you promulgate and your administration of the fund ensure that all victims receive full compensation for their losses without regard to their sexual orientation.
Just as those who died in the World Trade Center spanned all races, creeds, and colors,
the tragedy touched lesbian and gay families as well as heterosexual families. One of the heroes of the September 11 on board United Flight 93, , was a gay man. Many of the lesbian and gay victims are survived by longtime partners. lost his partner of 17
years, , a project analyst at with whom he shared a Yonkers home. lost her partner , an assistant Vice President for accounting at on the floor of One World Trade. Their stories, and the stories
of the other gay and lesbian victims of this tragedy, are as compelling as any others'.
The need for support and recompense is no less real for these survivors than it is for the countless other relatives who lost loved ones. America has reached out with enormous
generosity to all of the victims because our common humanity recognizes that grief and loss are not reserved to any single culture or group - they are borne by each and every one of us, whatever our race, religion, or sexual orientation.
The laudable purpose of the September 11th Fund is set forth clearly in the Act: to
provide compensation for the losses of those who died and those who were injured. It is crucial for the many deserving families that the regulations implementing this Section permit recovery for all deserving relatives, including the committed partners of gay and lesbian victims of the terror attacks. For those whose family relationships do not meet certain strict formal legal definitions, such as same-sex partners and non-biological children of victims, the enormity of the loss of a beloved companion and parent could be compounded by the prospect of ineligibility for compensation intended for their protection. The Department of Justice should not permit this potential inequity. I urge you to include among relatives eligible for compensation those who lost their life partners or non-biological parents, regardless of sexual orientation and marital status.
Just a few days ago, Governor Pataki issued an Executive Order granting surviving same-
sex partners of the World Trade Center attacks comparable benefits to those received by
surviving spouses from the state's Crime Victim Board. (The Board, I note, receives a large
portion of its compensation funds form the Department of Justice's Office for Victims of Crime.) In many other areas, New York state and local laws recognize that an array of people come together to form families that are emotionally and financially interdependent, and the law has been taking affirmative steps to protect those who face peril when a family member perishes. These court rulings, laws, and executive orders deserve special consideration and carry special weight because the vast majority of the victims of the September 11 attacks were killed in New York, and New York law would normally apply in compensation litigation.
Our nation has come together in this time of tragedy to lend its unqualified support to all the innocent victims of the attacks. We must stand united to fulfill our moral obligation to all those harmed by this tragedy. I therefore believe that all same-sex partners and non-biological children be eligible to serve as proper representatives for claims related to individuals who died as a result of the September 11th attacks. I further encourage you to treat non-economic damages, such as loss of companionship and loss of consortium, identically for those victims who were in heterosexual and homosexual relationships.
Ensuring that same-sex partners and the non-biological children of victims receive
compensation permits the federal fund to be distributed with basic equality and fairness to all those in need. And it upholds the fundamental values of liberty and equality cherished by all Americans, values that we are all fighting to defend as we wage war on those who are bent on undermining our freedom.
Thank you for taking these considerations into account as you continue your work on this important matter.
Senator Charles D. Schumer