Thursday, in a status conference with Lambda Legal in federal court in Chicago, the Department of Justice announced that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will apply the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent landmark marriage ruling retroactively and process pending spousal benefits claims for same-sex couples who lived in states that did not previously recognize their marriages. According to the Department of Justice, the new policy will apply to previously filed claims still pending in the administrative process or litigation. The expected policy change follows the Supreme Court’s June decision striking down marriage bans across the country.
“Lambda Legal is pleased to receive this confirmation that the Social Security Administration will soon announce a change to their spousal benefits policy that could right a wrong for hundreds of same-sex spouses, like our clients Kathy and Dave, whose claims are still in the administrative process or in litigation because their home states refused to recognize their marriages,” said Susan Sommer, Lambda Legal Director of Constitutional Litigation. “SSA has not announced when this policy change will be posted and implemented, but we look forward to reviewing the details and working with the agency 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.”
Sommer added, “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. We urge the SSA to move quickly to right the injustice to same-sex spouses whose marriages were unconstitutionally disrespected and who await Social Security protections.”
Last year, Lambda Legal filed federal lawsuits on behalf of Dave Williams, a widower, formerly of Arkansas, now a Chicagoan, who was denied spousal benefits after the death of his husband; Kathy Murphy, a Texas widow denied spousal benefits after the death of her wife; and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
Read the complaints.
Susan Sommer and Karen Loewy are handling the case for Lambda Legal. They are joined by Dennis Hranitzky, Will Sachse, Joni Jacobsen and David Goldberg of Dechert LLP.