The Supreme Court ruled in June that marriage is a constitutional right, paving the way for gay married couples who resided in states that didn’t recognize their unions and had filed claims for Social Security benefits to now be able to retroactively collect on spousal benefits.
The Justice Department said the Supreme Court ruling applies to individuals who were married before the monumental June marriage decision (Obergefell v. Hodges), living in states that didn’t recognize same-sex marriages, according to The New York Times.
“With this good news, we are hopeful that widows, widowers and retirees, wherever they lived, who need Social Security spousal benefits earned through years of hard work, will soon be able to receive them,” said Susan Sommer, director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal, a national nonprofit legal organization that advocates for LGBT rights.
There’s no word yet on when the Social Security Administration will implement the policy change, according to Lambda Legal.
The organization said it is looking forward to working with the SSA “to ensure that those who had been wrongly denied in the past will not have to wait longer to have their relationships treated with dignity by the federal government.”
Lambda Legal filed federal lawsuits in 2014 on behalf of widower Dave Williams, formerly of Arkansas and now of Chicago, because he was denied spousal benefits after his husband died. Another lawsuit on behalf of Texas widow Kathy Murphy was filed because Murphy was denied spousal benefits after her wife died.
The Justice Department represented the SSA in both the Williams and Murphy cases. The Times said after the ruling was announced, allowing spouses to collect on their claims retroactively, Williams responded:
“I am thrilled beyond words. I keep thinking that [my husband] Carl would be so pleased. It took over five years, and the efforts have been vindicated.”
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