Updated: June 19, 2020 10:23 PM
Created: June 19, 2020 05:46 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Mark and Anthony Gonzales got married in 2013, the very first day Bernalillo County started issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples.
Mark passed away seven months after the wedding, and Anthony has not been able to collect social security because they were not married long enough despite being together for 15 years.
The Social Security Administration requires people to be married for nine months to qualify for a spouse's benefits.
Anthony said he met Mark in 1998. He moved to New Mexico from New York, looking for change, after being diagnosed with AIDS.
"Almost passed away, and recovered from that. Thanks to the all the drugs being developed. And that's when he decided that he didn't want to go back to advertising and one of his friends suggested that he would make a great teacher," Anthony said.
In 2011, Mark was diagnosed with cancer.
"He went through radiation treatment for that," Anthony said. "And they thought they had gotten it, and then in 2013, he started feeling badly and went to the doctor, they told him that his cancer had spread. It was now in his lungs and his liver."
After receiving the bad news, the gay marriage was legalized, so Mark and Anthony decided to tie the knot.
"We got up, got dressed, went down to the courthouse, there were gobs of people there," Anthony said. "It was a festive site, you know, everybody was happy and they made an announcement that there was going to be a mass marriage ceremony at Civic Plaza, so we said 'let's go for it.'"
After Mark died, Anthony learned he would not be able to access the social security benefits that his partner had spent decades paying into.
However, Rep. Deb Haaland has introduced a bill to fix that.
"The Ages Act will ensure that LGBTQ-plus couples who married shortly after the Supreme Court ruled legal or their states ruled it legal have equal access to the Social Security Act survivors benefits," Haaland said.
Anthony believes Mark would be proud that people are still fighting for LGBTQ rights.
"He was a fighter that he stood up for what he believed in," Anthony said. "He wanted to live, you know. He fought to the very end."
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