There were resounding losses during 9/11. The whole nation reeled and mourned for the death of 2,996 individuals. Every community had its way of remembering their departed.
In the GSM community there was a heightened sense of loss; loss of family both blood and found, friends, partners, and lovers. All this grief was then met by the despicable fact that government meted out yet another sting to the community; survivors in the GSM community could not legally access benefits, the government deemed that same sex partners had no legal authority to payments from the federal government. The Bush administration punted to the states to decide on benefits for same sex partners legally married at the time.
There were near insurmountable odds stacked against these grieving partner survivors, many pushed for equal rights under the law. 9/11 shone a light on the plight of the GSM community and the need of the recognition of same sex marriage. New York City and New York State were the first to recognize the need to protect those same sex partners. DC followed suit to address the initial denial of financial aid to surviving same sex partners.
Community came together Lambda Legal, ESPA, the Human Rights Campaign and many other GSM advocacy groups created the September 11 Gay & Lesbian Family Fund for the surviving same sex partners who were ineligible for help from the federal relief fund. The Family Fund established in December 2001 helped offset the discrimination same sex partners faced in obtaining benefits automatically handed out to surviving opposite sex spouses for survivor benefits and compensation under the Federal 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund.
Today we honor the fallen, those who lost their life to a horrendous act of malice and terror. Father Mychal Judge, 68, a Franciscan priest who served as a Catholic chaplain for the New York City Fire Department never met a person he did not love. He petitioned for GSM individuals being part of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade and demonstrated for gay and AIDS causes. New Ways Ministries advocates for his canonization. Daniel Brandhorst and Ronald Gamboa, and their adopted son, David Brandhorst, were among those who died aboard the United Airlines flight that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The Los Angeles Times reported that Brandhorst, a lawyer and Gamboa, the manager of a Santa Monica Gap store, had adopted 3-year-old David when he was an infant. American Airlines co-pilot David Charlebois, an out gay man and member of the National Gay Pilots Association, who was on American Airlines Flight 77, which the terrorists crashed into the Pentagon. Mark Bingham, a rugby enthusiast for who the Bingham Cup is named, one of the many heroes of flight 93 fought back against the hijackers and went on to potentially save thousands of lives from an air attack possibly aimed at the Capitol or White House. These and many others not listed here were among the lives lost that day.
They came from all walks of life and in the end, they and many others will be remembered today in a plethora of memorials and tributes. Yet, let us remember them today for their loss and for the bonds their partners and many others forged during that time. Let us always remember.