Fed government to retroactively recognize same-sex marriages

The federal government will retroactively offer Social Security spousal benefits to same-sex couples who lived in states where their marriage wasn’t recognized, according to an advocacy group.

Lambda Legal said the Justice Department announced Thursday the policy change in federal court on Thursday, more than a month after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.

{mosads}Susan Sommer of Lambda Legal said the government’s decision “could right a wrong for hundreds of same-sex spouses” who lived in the 11 states that didn’t recognize same-sex marriages before the Supreme Court’s decision in June.

Sommer said the decision will hopefully pave the way for widows and widowers who lived in those states to get spousal benefits and make it easier for same-sex couples to get retiree benefits.

Dave Williams, an Arkansas widower, and Kathy Murphy, a Texas widow, had sued the government after being denied spousal benefits. The two argued that the Social Security Administration should recognize their marriages retroactively and give them full spousal benefits. Both Williams’s husband and Murphy’s wife died before the Supreme Court decision in June.

A Social Security Administration spokeswoman told The New York Times that the agency was still examining the Supreme Court decision in an article published this week.

Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, cheered the decision. 

“The Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this summer that all couples — regardless of sexual orientation — have the legal right to marry also meant that all same sex-spouses and their children were eligible for Social Security benefits,” Levin said. “Still, some same-sex spouses that married before the Court’s ruling have continued to fight for the benefits that they are owed.”


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