Information for Surviving Same-Sex Partners and Spouses Previously Excluded from Social Security Survivor’s Benefits Because of Unconstitutional State Marriage Laws

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February 19, 2021
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Lambda Legal has won victories in two class action lawsuits on behalf of surviving same-sex partners and spouses across the country who were denied Social Security survivor’s benefits because they were unable to be married for at least nine months before their partners and spouses died because of discriminatory state marriage laws. Trial courts in Ely v. Saul and Thornton v. Commissioner of Social Security held that denying survivor’s benefits to those who were barred from marriage is just as unconstitutional as the underlying marriage bans. Even while these cases are on appeal, the Social Security Administration is processing class members’ claims for survivor’s benefits. Lambda Legal has put together FAQ documents about these cases to provide information to potential class members about what these cases mean and how to demonstrate that you may be eligible for survivor’s benefits.

If you would have been married to your same-sex partner for at least nine months before their death but were never able to marry because of discriminatory marriage laws where you lived, you may be a member of the Thornton class. Click here for the Thornton FAQ.

If you married your same-sex spouse, but were unable to be married for at least nine months before your spouse’s death because of discriminatory marriage laws where you lived, you may be a member of the Ely class. Click here for the Ely FAQ.

If you have reviewed the FAQ that applies to your situation and you still have additional questions, please click here to submit an inquiry to Lambda Legal’s Help Desk and a representative will be in contact with you.