National Center for Lesbian Rights

Cases & Advocacy

O’Connor v. Pension Plan for Office Employees of the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York, Inc.

Status: Closed

Outcome: Victory

Location: New York

In November 2016, NCLR and attorney Teresa Renaker appealed a decision by the New York Philharmonic-Symphony’s pension plan denying a spousal benefit to Thomas O’Connor, a retired employee, and his husband, Victor Bumbalo. The plan originally denied the benefit on the basis that federal law in effect when Mr. O’Connor retired in 2009 did not recognize the marriage.

O’Connor and Bumbalo met and fell in love in 1967 at Bennington College. Ten years later, O’Connor began working for the New York Philharmonic, where he remained until 1995. He later held senior positions with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Orchestra Santa Monica. During the AIDS epidemic, Victor volunteered to care for patients and also worked with the Anti-Violence Project in New York. He became an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and director. The couple married in 2008 in California, as soon as marriage became legal in the state. But when O’Connor began receiving his pension benefit in 2009, the plan originally did not allow him to opt for a spousal benefit.

In April 2017, NCLR and co-counsel resolved this issue on O’Connor’s behalf. The pension plan has agreed to provide the spousal benefit.

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