US: Pharmaceutical company Bayer sued after denying benefits to gay widower

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Pharmaceutical corporation Bayer is facing a lawsuit after refusing to pay out survivor benefits to a gay widower.

The Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders has filed a lawsuit against the corporation in Connecticut, on behalf of Gerald Passaro, the widower of late Bayer employee Thomas Buckholz.

Despite Buckholz working for more than 20 years as a chemist before his death, Bayer has refused to pay Passaro the survivor benefit that widowers are usually entitled to.

In 2009, Bayer cited the federal Defense of Marriage Act – which banned recognition of same-sex marriage – as the reason it could not recognise Passaro as a widower, but following the repeal of DOMA in 2013, it has continued to refuse to pay.

GLAD director Gary Buseck said: “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.

“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.”

Buckholz and Passaro married on November 26, 2008, after more than 13 years together.

Buckholz passed away from lymphoma less than two months later.

The civil suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Connecticut last month.

Bayer is yet to respond to the allegations.

Last month, a lesbian widow whose wife died in Afghanistan was finally granted survivor benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs.