Astronaut and physicist Sally Ride passed away this week, her partner to receive NO federal benefits (UPDATED)

THIS is how we treat our heroes?

Astronaut and Stanford physicist Sally Ride passed away this week from pancreatic cancer. She was the first American* woman and the youngest American of either gender to travel into space. My family has a small but important (to us) connection with Dr. Ride. When my daughter was in grade school, she had a project where they dressed as their heroes and, during an open house, played the role of their hero, answering questions and chatting with the parents that visited. My daughter chose Sally Ride and was there, dressed in a blue jumpsuit and sporting my motorcycle helmet, a third grade astronaut. Her picture even ended up in the local newspaper.

Since her hero was still alive, I suggested that she write Dr. Ride a letter and include a copy of the newspaper article. She did and Dr. Ride sent her back a really terrific note along with a signed 8½” x 11″ color photo, her official NASA picture, inscribed with “Reach for the stars, Arleigh!”

When Dr. Ride, a lesbian, passed away this week, she left behind her partner of 27 years, Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy. Because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), O’Shaughnessy will receive no federal benefits, benefits she would receive if she were a man. Despite their life-long partnership, she is treated as if she were just an acquaintance.

The two met when they were 12 years old.

Like Ride, O’Shaughnessy was interested in science from a very young age, and “one of her favorite childhood memories is of watching tadpoles in a creek gradually sprout legs, go green, and turn into frogs,” according to her bio on the Sally Ride Science website.

After moving on from tadpoles to high school, Tam O’Shaughnessy attended Georgia State University, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology. She went on to teach college biology, then went on to earn a Ph.D. in school psychology from the University of California, Riverside, after her interest in the psychology of learning was piqued by her experience as a professor. {…}

The two became partners in 1985 — two years after Sally Ride’s history-making NASA flight — but they first met while playing tennis at the age of 12 years old. They were together until the very end, when Ride died Monday in La Jolla, Calif., after inspiring a nation to dream big.

Dr. Ride was well-respected, considered a hero by many Americans including my daughter. Mitt Romney had this to say:

“Today, America lost one of its greatest pioneers. The first American woman in space, Sally Ride inspired millions of Americans with her determination to break the mold of her time. She was a profile in courage, and while she will be missed, her accomplishments will never be forgotten.”

It may be that she was a hero and a pioneer. But, thanks to the small-mindedness of conservatives and anti-gay activists in this country including Mitt Romney who promises to defend DOMA, Dr. Ride’s widow, Dr. O’Shaughnessy, will be treated as a second class citizen without the benefits due to a surviving widow of an American hero.

That is our national shame.

UPDATE: While the President Obama did extend some federal benefits to domestic partners of federal employees, there are still some benefits they still do not receive, including a death benefit. From the NASA website:

  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – Up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for birth of a child and the care of child, placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care, care of a family member with a serious health condition, etc.
  • Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) & Federal Employees Dental/Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP)
  • Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI)
  • Federal Retirement Death Benefit

* As was pointed out by Martin in the comments, Dr. Ride was the first American woman in space. The honor for the first woman ever in space went to Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova who piloted Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963. I appreciate the correction.

[CC Ride patch image credit: Diorama Sky | Flickr, Ride image credit: NASA]



SPECIAL OFFER FOR ECLECTABLOG READERS
From now until President Obama’s birthday on August 4th, you can purchase four of these historic photomosaic posters of President Obama for only $20.

Click HERE for details.

, , ,

  • Martin Pollard

    Correction: Sally Ride (RIP) was the first AMERICAN woman in space. The honor of being the first woman in space goes to Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, who piloted Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963. Hell, even RMoney got this detail right. :-)

    • http://eclectablog.com Eclectablog

      Thank you. I will correct that.

      • Martin Pollard

        Appreciated! I’m kind of a space buff, thus I figured the correction was needed. Funny thing is, I heard the DJ on WOMC-FM 104.3 make this same mistake earlier this morning, but I didn’t have their phone number and I was at work. :-)

    • Martin Pollard

      Whoa… someone down-voted me because I *pointed out a fact*?! What was it, that Sally Ride wasn’t the first woman in space or that RMoney actually had his facts straight for once in his miserable life? Either way, someone was a little touchy, I guess. :-)

  • Pingback: Conservative blogosphere silence on Sally Ride()

  • C. McFarlin

    It is a shame…but really, no less a shame than when it happens to ANYONE. I appreciate that Dr. Ride’s status will bring added attention to this disservice, but absolutely every homosexual couple deserves our outrage and support, not just the famous ones.

    • http://eclectablog.com Eclectablog

      I ABSOLUTELY agree!

    • http://www.facebook.com/KMartin0710 Kate Martin

      It should be the same for every couple, that’s correct. Unfortunately, hopefully bringing the famous ones to light might force enough attention on the issue that it might get changed.

    • Harriet Baker

      Dont know about astronaut benefits but military doesn’t pay benefits to any surviving spouse unless it is service connected. Unless I am missing something, there would only be a loss of $255 from Social Security. That said, there are other issues more important to gay couples whom I totally support. Federal benefits are not one.

  • jennie

    if she named her life long partner as her beneficiary she will receive all pension benefits that any beneficiary would receive whether mail or female.

  • jennie

    please also not that every major corporation as does the federal government provide health benefits for all family members to include domestic partners!

    • jane

      No, not every corporation. And, yes, even when employers and the Feds do offer DP benefits, the value of those spousal benefits are TAXED as imputed income to the employee. WHY? Because the IRS tax code does not recognize our legal spouses. There is no such tax for married persons. This is just one of hundreds of examples. The only solution is marriage equality – on a national level. And we are heading in that direction. It is a constitutional inevitability.

  • Todd Hisloodi

    Personally I think her benefits should of went through. But she knew the rule but chosen her own path. If you all don’t like the law push forward to change them. Instead of writing here right your Congress person.

    • http://www.facebook.com/schwirzke Stephan Schwirzke

      Choose her own path huh. Still need some evolving to do, but your’e getting there.

      • http://eclectablog.com Eclectablog

        Seriously. WTF???

  • Jeffrey M. from Dallas

    This is a major loss for this country….the first woman in Space has died. I remember how proud I was of my country when she was picked to ride the Space Shuttle. We need more women out there like this great woman, who would have thought that we’ve digressed to arguing about Contraception in the 21st Century. What happened? I am even more proud as a gay male science geek… that it turns out our 1st Woman in Space was a Lesbian! I honor Dr. Ride for her choice of privacy. Today is a time to celebrate her life and monumental career! My condolences go to her wife and her family.
    Thank you Dr. Sally Ride for your courage and service to your country!

    • Susan Roberts

      3 people disliked this. Shame on all 3 of you.

  • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

    Federal benefits to married couples was created to promote the well-being of families – as in the creation of children. Creating children is very important to the federal government because more people equals more workers equals more taxes, greater opportunity, and national expansion. Of course, people like to ABUSE these federal benefits by having a bunch of kids out of wedlock, and some think they deserve these benefits in the name of “love”. Haha, no.

    The government shouldn’t give a shit about nebulous feelings like love or spirit of character. The government shouldn’t seek to reward happy feelings or good vibes – they have a responsibility for the greater good of the nation. Pleasing a fringe minority (yes, homosexuals are a tiny minority of our population) by giving them money doesn’t make sense. Gay culture is of no benefit to the federal government, and it shouldn’t be their concern. The government, especially the federal government, should stay out of the business of cultural persuasion. That’s none of their business.

    Also, don’t be a bunch of greedy gays – federal money is NOT YOUR MONEY. You don’t have a right to tax money just because other people do. That money should be spent fixing roads, helping the homeless find jobs, developing better national infrastructure (and promoting families). If anyone deserves that money it’s veterans of the military, FBI, and CIA. High-risk jobs.

    This is what is meant by “entitlement culture.” It’s the idea that “everyone else is abusing the system for their own gain, we should too!” Federal benefits to gay couples is ABUSE of the federal system.

    • http://eclectablog.com Eclectablog

      Profound ignorance on display with this hideous comment.

      • Eric Zehnder

        It’s well-written ignorance, you have to admit. I mean, proper capitalization, grammar and spelling? Rare on the Internet these days. Refreshing? Like manure.

        • http://eclectablog.com Eclectablog

          Good point.

        • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

          Did I insult you? There are two sides to this issue – I presented the other side.

          I don’t believe homosexuals are victims of the federal system. Gay people are just as free as every other kind of people in this country – how they choose to express that freedom is deeply personal, and not a federal issue. Every subculture wants to believe that they’re the center of the Universe, but they’re not, frankly.

          This isn’t about “acceptance” – gay people are already accepted in this culture – this is about how our government operates.

          • Eric Zehnder

            I would say that when gay people aren’t allowed to marry and/or receive the same benefits that married straight people do – that’s not acceptance. Looking at the laws being pushed in Republican-led states, I would say there’s a concerted effort to keep gay people from being treated equally.

            Stories like this exist because gay people are treated as a lower class of person in this and many countries. That’s a fact and it’s what should stop. End of story.

      • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

        Heh, that’s all you got? You want to dispute anything or you just want to go the personal attack route? Thought so.

        • jane

          Jay – you are apparently not sharp enough to understand that you’ve just been schooled on the substantive merits of your ignorant rant.

          • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

            That must be it :)

        • Martin Pollard

          Calling you ignorant isn’t a personal attack. It’s a statement of fact. A fact that, I’ll add, you continue to prove every time you put your fingers on your keyboard and spew more drivel. Game set and match, you lose, thank you for playing, have a nice day.

          • James

            I actually agree with Jay. The federal government shouldn’t be supporting anything relating to couples unless it has to do with procreation. Thus, the government should give fertility tests to every couple to make sure that they will be able to procreate before granting them the ability to marry or receive federal benefits. I’m sure I’m just as concerned as Jay is that if the government didn’t continue to play its important role in encouraging procreation, that people would stop having children. It’s just not a natural urge unless there’s government funds to be had. The government should also have mandatory “Menopause Checks” for women in their late 40s and 50s to make sure that couples that are no longer able to procreate do not receive a dime. Again, as Jay and I both believe, supporting procreation is the only purpose of federal benefits to married couples.

            Also, I don’t like it when black people marry white people. Thus, those couples do not deserve equal rights. Interracial marriage grosses me out, so, thus, the government should not countenance it or give those couples any of the benefits that straight people would. And the percentage of persons who want to marry a member of a different race is so small, so why should the government give any attention to them! Also, it’s harder for kids to grow up with interracial parents (what boxes do they check on forms?!), so interracial couples shouldn’t be allowed to have kids. Last, marriage within one’s own race is the traditional version of marriage.

            Jay, as I usually equate bigotry with a lack of intelligence, I want to make clear that the above language is sarcasm. You won’t receive one less cent from the federal government if people like Tam O’Shaughnessy receive the benefits that she would be owed if her name were Matt. If you are married, your marriage won’t be even a scintilla less or more strong if more states allow gays and lesbians the right to marry. What does make me concerned for you is that you are completely on the losing end of a battle, and your anger and hatred will probably continue to increase as gays continue to obtain the equal rights that they deserve. I’m not sure how old you are, but it’s going to be a long 10 or 20 years for you. For your sake, it might be best for you to permanently turn off the news or not walk down any streets in large cities. I wish you the best of luck for the emotional hardship that you have been facing and will continue to face.

          • http://eclectablog.com Eclectablog

            Top Comment. Thank you.

          • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

            That was perfect. I couldn’t have asked for a better reply. It’s EXACTLY the kind of response I was expecting. Took long enough, though.

            Just so others can read what you’ve written, and so you can’t delete it, I’ve attached it below. You have a nice day :)

            *********
            I actually agree with Jay. The federal government shouldn’t be
            supporting anything relating to couples unless it has to do with
            procreation. Thus, the government should give fertility tests to every
            couple to make sure that they will be able to procreate before granting
            them the ability to marry or receive federal benefits. I’m sure I’m
            just as concerned as Jay is that if the government didn’t continue to
            play its important role in encouraging procreation, that people would
            stop having children. It’s just not a natural urge unless there’s
            government funds to be had. The government should also have mandatory
            “Menopause Checks” for women in their late 40s and 50s to make sure that
            couples that are no longer able to procreate do not receive a dime.
            Again, as Jay and I both believe, supporting procreation is the only
            purpose of federal benefits to married couples.

            Also, I don’t like it when black people marry white people. Thus,
            those couples do not deserve equal rights. Interracial marriage grosses
            me out, so, thus, the government should not countenance it or give
            those couples any of the benefits that straight people would. And the
            percentage of persons who want to marry a member of a different race is
            so small, so why should the government give any attention to them!
            Also, it’s harder for kids to grow up with interracial parents (what
            boxes do they check on forms?!), so interracial couples shouldn’t be
            allowed to have kids. Last, marriage within one’s own race is the
            traditional version of marriage.

            Jay, as I usually equate bigotry with a lack of intelligence, I want
            to make clear that the above language is sarcasm. You won’t receive one
            less cent from the federal government if people like Tam O’Shaughnessy
            receive the benefits that she would be owed if her name were Matt. If
            you are married, your marriage won’t be even a scintilla less or more
            strong if more states allow gays and lesbians the right to marry. What
            does make me concerned for you is that you are completely on the losing
            end of a battle, and your anger and hatred will probably continue to
            increase as gays continue to obtain the equal rights that they deserve.
            I’m not sure how old you are, but it’s going to be a long 10 or 20
            years for you. For your sake, it might be best for you to permanently
            turn off the news or not walk down any streets in large cities. I wish
            you the best of luck for the emotional hardship that you have been
            facing and will continue to face.

            ******

          • James

            Jay–I’m glad we’re in agreement!

          • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

            We’re not. Not at all. :)

          • Susan Roberts

            Why would James delete a brilliantly worded go-off? I’d print it out. frame it, and hang it on my wall if I were him.

          • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

            I saved it specifically because it’s *not* brilliant. But you’re free to choose what to believe. :)

          • http://twitter.com/DebofAmber DebofAmber

            Nicely done. The best part may be Jay’s reply under mine though. I almost snorted coffee when I read it.

    • butcher99

      only true if people who have no children get no benefits or if gay couples with children get them. Other than that your entire piece is excrement.

    • Eric Zehnder

      1. Fringe Minority – I believe homosexuals are polled to be around 10%
      of our population and that doesn’t include a LOT of people that can’t or
      won’t admit that they’re gay or simply don’t want to answer the types
      of polls that generate these statistics.

      2. Gay culture is of no benefit to the federal government – And
      “straight culture” is? According to you, having kids is what the
      federal government wants…you know, to fill all those unfilled jobs. I
      forgot that we’re at negative unemployment in this country. Just too
      many jobs and not enough people!

      3. Don’t be a bunch of greedy gays – Actually, I do believe that gay
      people have the right to tax money *specifically* because straight
      couples have the right to it. I believe there’s something in the
      constitution about all people being created equal, rights and equality,
      pursuit of happiness, etc…

      4. Veterans of the military, FBI, and CIA might also be gay…so…yeah.
      High risk jobs? This woman was the first American woman in space. It’s a
      pretty fucking risky job.

      • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

        Haha, 30 million gay people in America – I highly doubt that. Try 1%.

        There’s no such thing as “straight culture.” If there were I would be against federal compensation for it.

        People are CREATED equal – that does not mean everyone is equal. Jeez.

        We’re talking about her partner’s *right* to federal benefits. Obviously a NASA astronaut will receive federal compensation.

  • bostonblackie

    In almost all the current stories celebrating Ms Ride’s life and her accomplishments, there is no mention of her marriage to fellow astronaut Steve Hawley from 1982-1987. I would imagine that he played an important part in her life when she worked for NASA.

    • Lily Bett

      Not true. I have read at least three obits in which Steve Hawley and his marriage to Sally Ride are prominently mentioned, along with a memorial quotation from Mr. Hawley.

    • Lily Bett

      http://news.yahoo.com/former-nasa-astronaut-steve-hawley-remembers-sally-rides-225409839.html
      The following is a statement from former NASA astronaut Steve Hawley regarding the death of fellow astronaut Sally Ride. Hawley was selected into the astronaut corps in 1978 and was married to Ride from 1982 until 1987. A veteran of five space shuttle flights, he left the agency in 2008 and now is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Kansas, Lawrence.

  • http://twitter.com/S_Elliott_H Sean✗Elliott✗H.™

    I find this to be a travesty and a betrayal to those who risk all to be innovative and groundbreaking .. Her accomplishments alone should warrant her partner receiving benefits. Pure “douchebaggery”.

  • Bill Haines

    Dr. Ride also was, and even today remains the youngest American in space, at 32 for her first flight.

    My own speculation is that she may have refrained from publicizing her sexual orientation out of concern that this might compromise her efforts to attract young women to careers in the sciences and the thought that the former was less important than the latter. If true, I believe this casts even more shame on us as a nation, though even more esteem on her memory.

    I won’t even get started on Romney… >:C

  • Leftist

    All you right-wing, homophobes, ‘go to hell’. And stop calling yourselves ‘Christians’. You’re just dragging the name of Christianity through the mud. Jesus would roll over in his grave if he could see how you all use his name to spread hated and bigotry.

  • null

    how would i cite this source in my paper?

    • http://eclectablog.com Eclectablog

      Beats me. None of this is original reporting. You should cite the sources unless you’re citing my commentary.

      • null

        okay, thank you

eXTReMe Tracker