IE Grapevine Updates

New bill would require Social Security benefits to extend to same-sex Couples

William Murphy/Flickr

William Murphy/Flickr

Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., has introduced a new bill called the Social Security and Marriage Equality (SAME) Act of 2014. This bill says that it will “amend the method by which Social Security Administration determines the validity of marriages”.

The amendment would extend survivor benefits to any individual legally married in the United States, regardless of whether or not the state they reside in recognizes same-sex marriage. It would also allow couples who were married in another country to be eligible for Social Security survivor benefits, according to the legislation summary.

Currently, Social Security benefits are only extended to same-sex couples if they presently reside in a state where same-sex marriage is recognized, regardless of if it is recognized in the state they were married.

The SAME Act of 2014 comes as a response to the United States vs Windsor ruling in 2013, where the Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of the Defense Against Marriage Act and found that the federal government may not, through its statutes, create two classes of marriage.

A memorandum was issued by the U.S. Attorney General on February 10, 2014, which relies on a “place of celebration” standard in determining the validity of marriages for the purposes of the Department of Justice policies and procedures, according to the legislation.

Eligibility for benefits of Social Security are determined on a place of residence basis. According to the legislation, “the Social Security Administration has the ability to resolve [the] inconsistency through administrative action, [but] the Social Security Marriage Equality (SAME) Act of 2014 provides a roadmap to ensure equal success”.

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