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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 12, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 33
Gay widower sues TV station for survivor benefits
Section One
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Gay widower sues TV station for survivor benefits

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The widower of a Gay TV station employee filed suit against his late husband's employer and the pension fund administering the station's employee benefits for refusing to give him the survivor benefits to which he was entitled.

David Reed filed his lawsuit against KRON TV in San Francisco and the KRON/IBEW 45 pension plan on August 9.

Reed and his late husband, Donald Lee Gardner, first began dating in 1998. They became domestic partners in 2004.

Gardner was a technical director at KRON for more than 30 years, and a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 45. He retired on his union pension in 2009.

Reed and Gardner were married in 2014 after more than 16 years together, but Gardner died only five days later of a rare blood disease.

Reed then applied for survivor benefits from his late husband's pension fund but was denied, even though the couple had been registered domestic partners for 10 years and had married before Gardner died.

Under California law, domestic partners have all the rights and responsibilities of married couples, Reed's suit argues, and Reed had in fact married his longtime partner before Gardner died.

'My husband and I did everything we could to protect one another,' Reed said.

'Words cannot describe the grief of losing the person you planned to spend the rest of your life beside. While I mourned his loss, I was devastated by KRON-4's refusal to recognize our relationship and to pay the benefits that Donald earned during his long service to KRON-4 in order to protect our family.'

Attorney Teresa Renaker, who represents Reed, said that the plan's language requires it to treat Reed as Gardner's legal spouse.

'Federal law requires pension plans to follow their written terms, and there is no question that David and Donald must be treated as spouses under the clear language of the plan,' she said in a statement.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is also assisting with Reed's suit. NCLR senior staff attorney Amy Whelan said, 'The plan needs to abide by its promises and provide this much-needed benefit to David. It is shocking that a San Francisco-based company and a California plan would discriminate against its employees and their partners in this way. There is absolutely no defense in this case.'

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