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July 11, 2001
Should Life Partner Get Cop's Pension?
It'
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s hard enough for a police force to cope with the slaying of an officer. But in the case of Officer Lois Marrero, Tampa police must also scour their rules and contracts to determine whether her survivor benefits should go to the woman she lived with for 10 years.

Since Marrero and Mickie Mashburn, another cop, weren't legally wed, it's unclear what Mashburn will get, the St. Petersburg Times reports.

Marrero, 40, was shot to death last week, while chasing a bank robber.

Tampa police and city officials said Sunday, two days after the shooting, that they did not know whether Mashburn, 48, would be eligible to receive benefits. It would require a look into the union contract, department policies, and state law.

"This is going to be an issue for personnel and the pension board," police spokeswoman Katie Hughes told the Times. "We have no policy addressing this situation that I know of."

Gay and lesbian activists say Mashburn should get the same treatment that any spouse would.

"They were the epitome of the perfect married, suburban, middle-class couple. They did everything together," said Don Bentz, president of Tampa Bay Pride. "She is entitled and deserves those benefits. If she doesn't get them, it's an injustice."

Bentz, who said he met Marrero and Mashburn about 10 years ago, described them as a happy, committed couple. "Their relationship was just as valid and deserves as much respect as any piece of paper that a church or government can give you," he said.

Mashburn, who is a detective with the Tampa Police Department, said Sunday that she had not discussed the benefits issue with the top brass.

"Their main concern right now is making arrangements for the funeral," she said.

Usually, in cases involving a husband and wife, the surviving spouse receives 65 percent of the officer's pay, according Tom Singleton, a police detective who serves as chairman of the Tampa Fire and Police Pension Fund. He didn't know whom, if anyone, would be entitled to Marrero's pension.

"I can only go with what's mandated by law," he said. "I've known Mickie and Lois a long time. It's one of those situations we'll have to deal with."

Mayor Dick Greco said he hoped the city would be able to grant whatever Marrero would have wanted. "I think if it's in her will, we might give it to her, but I'm not sure how it works," he said.

Depending on what the documents show, the Times reported, the issue might come up for a vote before the pension board, which includes police and fire representatives. It would be the first time the issue has come up, according to the newspaper.

Only Vermont legally recognizes the marriage between people of the same sex. About 35 states, on the other hand, have enacted laws restricting marriage to heterosexual couples.
Nevada and Nebraska have gone a step further and banned the recognition of civil unions.

Gay and lesbian couples have been fighting for years for the right to legally wed. They argue it's unfair for lifelong companions to be denied benefits that heterosexual couples have, including insurance and tax benefits.

Marrero had 19 years on the force and planned to retire in 15 months. She had weathered plenty of controversy, including a firing in 1997 for lying about attending a law enforcement seminar when she was really on vacation. She sued the department, claiming she lost her badge because she had written a grievance letter to the police chief.

Marrero got her job back, but was stripped of her rank as sergeant. A friend said that through it all, she didn't hold a grudge. She loved her job too much. "She never got upset," he said. "You never heard her say a bad thing about the Tampa Police Department."

To view the St. Petersburg Times story, click here.
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