SSA Doing As Little As Possible Regarding Same Sex Marriages
It appears that the Department of Justice is still telling the Social Security Administration to do as little as possible on same sex marriage. The approach is still state by state, waiting for each appeal to end. This could drag on for months.
Here’s an excerpt from a New York Times article detailing one such story:
Kathleen A. Murphy was left a widow when her wife, from a marriage in Massachusetts, died of cancer in 2012.Last year, Ms. Murphy, 62, applied to the Social Security Administration for spousal survivor’s benefits and the standard lump-sum death payment. But she was turned down because the couple lived in Texas — one of the 18 states, as of this week, that does not recognize same-sex marriages.That decision, and the policy behind it to follow marriage laws in the state of residence to determine marital status, were challenged in federal court on Tuesday as unconstitutional forms of discrimination in a suit brought on Ms. Murphy’s behalf by Lambda Legal, a New York-based gay rights group.“People’s constitutional rights shouldn’t be left behind because of where they live,” said Susan Sommer, the director of constitutional litigation for the group. She said the suit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, was the first to directly challenge the Social Security residence-based policy on marriage and that thousands of couples could potentially be affected.
For the most part, federal discrimination against same-sex couples ended after the Supreme Court ruling last year in United States v. Windsor, which overturned part of the Defense of Marriage Act. That decision was lauded by President Obama as an important step toward equality, and the federal government began to treat legally married same-sex couples as married for purposes of federal taxes, federal employee benefits and a host of other benefits, no matter where they lived.
The Social Security Administration has said that it is committed to extending spousal benefits to same-sex couples, but that it is bound by law to determine marital status based on the residence of the insured, not where the marriage took place.