Same-sex partners and spouses now have access to Social Security benefits that they were previously denied due to the now lifted ban on same-sex marriage.
Why it matters: In the past, surviving partners who were no longer legally allowed to marry were not eligible for benefits. Couples who could marry could only claim benefits if they had been married for at least nine months, even though that was not possible due to previous marriage bans.
context: In 2018, LGBTQ rights group Lambda Legal filed two lawsuits against the Social Security Administration (SSA) over the decrees.
- Federal district courts in Arizona and Washington ruled last year that it is unconstitutional to exclude surviving partners from benefits in this capacity.
- The Trump administration appealed both cases, which were pending when President Biden took office.
- The Justice Department and the Social Security Administration announced Monday that they had rejected the appeals.
What they say: “The relief from today’s action by the federal government is almost palpable,” Lambda Legal senior counsel Karen Loewy said in a statement.
- “For decades, same-sex couples paid into Social Security, just like opposite-sex couples. The difference was that only one group always had the freedom to marry, leading to gross inequalities that persisted.”
- “No one should continue to pay the price for past discrimination,” added Lambda Legal Counsel Peter Renn. “This [is] a historic development with huge implications: survivor benefits are now available equally to everyone, including potentially thousands of same-sex partners who were unable to marry their loved ones and perhaps thought it was futile to apply.”
- SSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.