Wednesday, one day before the anniversary of the historic Supreme Court ruling striking down Section 3 of DOMA, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI), Allyson Schwartz (D-WA) and Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) were joined by advocates from Human Rights Campaign, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Social Security Works to highlight the need for Congressional action to ensure that all same-sex spouses receive equal treatment under the Social Security Act. Introduced by Senator Murray and Representative Kind last month, the bipartisan Social Security and Marriage Equality (SAME) Act closes the current gap and extends full Social Security benefits to legally married same-sex couples, regardless of where they live.
Eligibility for spousal benefits provided under the Social Security Act is determined by a place of residence standard. This standard has resulted in Social Security benefit applications being placed on hold for legally married same-sex spouses living in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage. Last week, the Obama administration announced they are not legally able to extend these benefits to all couples without Congressional action to change the statute. Senator Murray and Representative Kind were joined in introducing the SAME Act by Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) and Representatives Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), and Elizabeth Esty (D-CT).
“We are here because we know that equality does not end at state lines and your zip code should not determine whether or not your family will have the means to survive after the death of a spouse. And it shouldn’t prevent your family from getting the benefits you have earned,” said Murray.
“So I hope my colleagues here in the Senate – and in the House – are paying attention. Because there is no excuse for the federal government to continue withholding ANY federal benefits from legally married same-sex couples.”
Murray’s full remarks are below.
“Good afternoon! Thank you all for being here today.
“As we bring this Pride Month to a close, it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come since the Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act – one year ago tomorrow.
“While that decision paved the way for married same-sex couples to receive equal access to federal protections and benefits, many couples are still fighting for equal treatment under federal law. And despite the Obama administration’s announcement of expanded benefits last week, there are still many legally married, same-sex couples seeking Social Security spousal benefits who will continue to be viewed as second-class citizens in the eyes of the law.
“Right now, a couple is only able to receive these federal benefits if they’re currently living in a state that recognizes their marriage.
“So for the many couples who have crossed state lines to tie the knot or have moved from marriage-equality states to those that don’t recognize their marriage, their fight continues.
“This seemingly subjective denial of spousal benefit claims places an economic and emotional burden on the families of legally married same-sex couples.
“And while many of us here – myself included – had hoped the administration would make this fix on their own, we’re here today to provide Congress with a legislative roadmap to get this done — once and for all.
“Our bipartisan legislation, the Social Security and Marriage Equality — or SAME — Act would amend the Social Security Act to ensure that all legally married same-sex spouses receive equal treatment when applying for Social Security benefits, regardless of where they live.
“We are here because we know that equality does not end at state lines and your zip code should not determine whether or not your family will have the means to survive after the death of a spouse. And it shouldn’t prevent your family from getting the benefits you have earned.
“So I hope my colleagues here in the Senate – and in the House – are paying attention. Because there is no excuse for the federal government to continue withholding ANY federal benefits from legally married same-sex couples.
“So I’d like to thank Senator Mark Udall, who could not be here with us today, for his work on this here in the Senate. I’d also like to thank Representatives Kind, Schwartz and Esty for leading the charge across the Capitol in the House.
“And of course the advocates who are here with us today – It’s going to be your voices and grassroots organization that will help us push this bipartisan, commonsense bill forward. And as you can tell by the number of stories they’ve brought with them today – they’re off to a running start!
“And finally, I’d also like to applaud Senators Feinstein, Shaheen and others who are also working to make the changes needed to ensure no one is left out when it comes to full protection and benefits under the law.”