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Marriage Equality

Bill Would Extend Social Security Benefits to All Married Couples

Bill Would Extend Social Security Benefits to All Married Couples


While the gutting of DOMA last year made equal access to Social Security benefits possible for married same-sex couples in states with marriage equality, it didn't change the situation for all gay and lesbian spouses in the U.S.

A bill was introduced Thursday in the U.S. Senate that would allow same-sex married couples to receive the same Social Security benefits as opposite-sex couples, no matter what state they live in. Currently, same-sex couples have access to spousal benefits only if they live in a marriage equality state.

This bill, the Social Security and Marriage Equality (SAME) Act of 2014, would determine spouses' access to the benefits based on if their marriage was recognized where they were wed, even if that was in another country.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and cosponsored by Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado. While Murray's home state extends marriage rights to all couples, Udall's state does not.

"Your zip code should not determine whether or not your family will have the means to survive after the death of a spouse," Murray said in a statement Thursday.

Murray said the Social Security Administration should resolve this, but the SAME Act would be an intermediate measure.

Udall said something had to be done to address the disparity, as it's been a year since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the section of the Defense of Marriage Act that barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

"Marriages don't end when couples cross state lines, and neither should the federal benefits they have earned," he said. "Whether it's veterans' home loans or spousal survivor benefits, I won't rest until the federal government treats all marriages equally."

Michael Adams, the executive director of Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, or SAGE, applauded the legislation.

"It is high time that LGBT older adults were treated like first-class citizens when it comes to receiving the Social Security benefits they have earned through a life of hard work," he said.

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