Colosimo v. Berryhill

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Frederick Colosimo (right) and his late husband Harvey (left)
Status: Open
U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina
Issues: Anti-LGBT Rulings, Laws and Amendments, Marriage, Relationships and Family Protections, Seniors

Lambda Legal filed a motion on behalf of a 75-year-old gay man arguing that the Social Security Administration’s denial of spousal survivor’s benefits to him, on the grounds that he was not recognized as married for long enough despite discriminatory marriage laws that prevented him from marrying earlier, is unconstitutional. The lawsuit filed on behalf of Frederick Colosimo, who was in a 43-year committed relationship with his husband, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, argues that SSA’s imposition of a nine-month marriage requirement for Social Security survivor’s benefits is unconstitutional where same-sex couples were not able to be recognized as married for nine months because of discriminatory marriage laws.

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Frederick Colosimo and Harvey Lucas were in a committed relationship from 1971 until Lucas died in 2014. They divided their time between North Carolina and South Carolina, where a number of Lucas’ doctors were located, after he got sick. Both U.S. military veterans, Colosimo was a longtime employee of the U.S. Postal Service, and Lucas worked for Martin-Marietta Corporation (later, Lockheed Martin). Lucas was diagnosed with heart disease in 2004, and Colosimo took early retirement to become his full-time caregiver. In the ensuing 10 years, Lucas was in and out of hospitals until he died in 2014 of cancer. In the midst of this struggle, Lucas and Colosimo managed to travel to New Jersey in November 2013 to get married.