Married Same-Sex Couples Get Many – But Not All – Federal Spouse Benefits

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June 20, 2014
Susan Sommer, Lambda Legal's Director of Constitutional Litigation

The Department of Justice (DOJ) released a report today recounting extensive recognition of same-sex spouses for purposes of federal benefits. 

But the DOJ asserts that access for married same-sex couples and survivors living in states that deny recognition to their marriages to some of the most critical benefits offered by the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs will require legislative action.

Read our fact sheets After DOMA: What It Means for You

We very much appreciate all that the Department of Justice and this Administration have done to implement the Windsor decision and be true to the U.S. Supreme Court’s condemnation of discrimination against married same-sex families. Our nation has come far this last year. But because many married same-sex couples face discrimination in their home states and won’t receive critical federal Social Security and veterans benefits, continuing hardships demand swift resolution.

Older LGBT people — those who have already borne the brunt of decades of antigay discrimination in this country — will suffer the most if they cannot access critical benefits for veterans, the aging and their spouses. Sadly, many of the most vulnerable members of our community continue to carry the burden of discrimination against LGBT families. We will continue to work to make sure that married same-sex couples are respected no matter where they live.

Since the Supreme Court ruling last June striking down Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal government has made great strides in recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples in important areas such as federal taxes, immigration and benefits for married federal employees. We applaud those steps. Married same-sex couples, wherever they live, still need critical Social Security and veterans benefits, earned through years of work and service to the country, to take care of their families. No member of our community should be left behind.

Those with questions or concerns about discrimination or denial of a protection to which they are entitled should contact Lambda Legal’s Help Desk.

Read the full DOJ report here

Read the press release.