Social Security Just Got a Bit More Gay Friendly

The Social Security agency has announced it will be expanding its recognition of same-sex married couples, yet another example of how the administration is continuing to apply the Supreme Court’s landmark anti-DOMA ruling.

On December 16, the Social Security Administration announced that it will now be able to process certain claims made by same-sex married partners. An administration representative explained in a statement:

“I am pleased to announce that, effective today, Social Security is processing some widow’s and widower’s claims by surviving members of same-sex marriages and paying benefits where they are due. In addition, we are able to pay some one-time lump sum death benefit claims to surviving same-sex spouses. As I stated shortly after the Supreme Court decision on Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, our goal is to treat all Americans with dignity and respect.”

In the summer of 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the Defense of Marriage Act’s Section 3, which barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. For same-sex married couples, this was a game changer. It opened up some of the 1,100 and more federal benefits that had previously been reserved for heterosexual married couples.

The Social Security announcement is a direct reference to that Supreme Court case, known as Windsor v United States, as it deals with a similar issue to that which plaintiff Edith Windsor faced following the death of her wife Thea Spire: that she was denied survivorship recognition.

This likely won’t be the end of the administration’s work, with the statement highlighting that this is an ongoing process that will continue to be assessed and improved upon:

“We ask for continued patience from the public as we work closely with the Department of Justice to develop policies that are legally sound so we can process claims. If you believe you may be eligible for Social Security, I encourage you to apply now to protect against the loss of any potential benefits. We will process claims as soon as additional instructions become finalized.”

To find out more about same-sex partnership rights in terms of social security access, you can find out more here.

The social security announcement is one in a number of recent important steps for same-sex marriage recognition.

Another important area of change has also occurred in how individual states will process recognition for married same-sex partners in the military. You may remember that in October Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered National Guard chiefs throughout the United States to begin providing military IDs for the same-sex partners of military members.

At the time, some National Guards announced they would not process spousal recognition for military same-sex married partners, citing states’ bans on same-sex marriage and saying that the state law took precedent over the federal DOMA ruling. Hagel reacted defiantly to this pushback, saying that in terms of processing military identification and benefits, all states should follow the wider military’s lead. Oklahoma’s administration even went as far as stopping processing all military family IDs so that it would not have to recognize same-sex marriages.

Now, Hagel has announced that all states will process military IDs for same-sex married partners:

Following consultations between the National Guard Bureau and the adjutants general of the states, all eligible service members, dependents and retirees – including same-sex spouses – are now able to obtain ID cards in every state. All military spouses and families sacrifice on behalf of our country.  They deserve our respect and the benefits they are entitled to under the law.  All of DoD is committed to pursuing equal opportunities for all who serve this nation, and I will continue to work to ensure our men and women in uniform as well as their families have full and equal access to the benefits they deserve.

These small advancements are important ones. They do however speak to the inequality and unequal treatment that same-sex couples continue to face, something that will only be remedied when all states recognize same-sex marriage.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


ScoTT Senate
ScoTT S4 years ago

A few years ago, there was a term used for living together arrangements like commonlaw marriages. The IRS called it POSSLQ, Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters. The term never really took hold, but, it was an attempt to recognize commonlaw marriage as holding the same tax status as one that was certified legal by the state.

Sandra R.
Sandra R4 years ago

Amen to President Obama & his administration! Times are changing and people better get use to it that GAY people aren't going away! The reason why I am PRO to this is because I have Gay people in my family and unfortunately my brother who was with a partner died 22 years ago on November 9 1991; he had succumb to the disease of HIV/AIDS! He would be so proud now! I know Petey the Angel is looking over us now!

Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert4 years ago

Step by step, inch by inch, law by law, court by court...

Mark Vaughan
Mark Vaughan4 years ago

And...another step forward. It's not a battle won at a swoop; we are doing it peice meal, but it is getting done. Hold the line, and never stop fighting for full equality for all Americans.

Anita Wisch
Anita Wisch4 years ago

Yep, we pay taxes, and deserve all the rights that others of the "human race" enjoy".

Anne Moran
Anne M4 years ago

Shouldn't be an issue..

It's their spouse/companion/better half etc.,, so they should be entitled to their partner's benefits like anybody else..

Especially given the fact, that they are 'chosen'/declared as such...

Jen Matheson
Past Member 4 years ago

Good news!

Joe M.
Joe Martinez4 years ago

The irony here is pay your taxes but we don't recognize you. Shame on the IRS and those government that support their views.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown4 years ago

Good deal! You can't stop the march of social justice (the bigots can ONLY slow it down, not stop it).

Sue H.
Sue H4 years ago

Good to know, thanks. Progress.