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Mary Ritchie & Kathy Bush

Like many moms, Mary and Kathy spend their evenings cooking dinner and checking homework for their two boys while navigating a maze of musical instruments, Legos and basketballs…and soccer balls and baseballs. By day Mary and Kathy are both engaged members of their community in Framingham. Mary is a State Police Detective Lieutenant assigned to the General Headquarters in the Division of Standards and Training. Kathy is co-president of their sons’ middle school PTO and is deeply involved in their education, volunteering in the school and coordinating fundraising events to help their school raise money.

Mary and Kathy have been together for nearly 23 years. They married in 2004 at their home in Framingham, surrounded by friends, neighbors, and family, including their sons Ryan, now 13, and William, who is now 11.

Kathy, originally from Framingham, stopped working after Ryan was born so she could stay home with the boys full-time. Mary is a Boston native and has been a member with the Massachusetts State Police 24 years. As a member of the State Police force, she risks her safety every day to protect her community.

But if Mary were killed in the line of duty, the federal government would deny Kathy the benefits the government pays to officers’ surviving spouses. Kathy also wouldn’t be eligible for the education benefit for surviving spouses—which she would need to re-enter the workplace.

“Every time a member of law enforcement dies in the line of duty, we’re reminded of how vulnerable our family is,” says Mary. “The federal government provides a safety net for the families of public safety officers who die, including a death benefit and an education benefit for surviving spouses. But because the federal government discriminates against our marriage, if something happened to me, Kathy would get nothing.”

And unlike other married couples, Mary and Kathy cannot file their federal taxes jointly. Since 2004 they have paid close to $30,000 more in taxes because they can’t file their federal taxes as a married couple—even though they are legally married. This means they have less money for household expenses, and to put away for their boys’ college funds and retirement.

“We have the same struggles and the same commitment as other families. Mary works, I stay home, we have two boys, a dog, and a cat, fish tanks, and a guinea pig,” says Kathy. “We work hard, pay taxes, volunteer, and do our part for our community. But the federal government still tells us we’re less of a family than other families in our neighborhood—families Mary works to protect.”

Read a profile of Mary Ritchie and Kathy Bush in The MetroWest Daily News