Everyday People Matter

Path Breaking Decision on Social Security Benefits for Same- Sex Couples

On Behalf of | Nov 20, 2021 | Same Sex Marriage Benefits

For decades, same sex couples have found it challenging to apply for Social Security survivors’ benefits and many, in fact, simply chose not to apply because the system was stacked against them. Now, however, that changes after the Biden administration dismissed appeals of trial court decisions ruling in favour of same- sex plaintiffs.

The first case was filed by Helen Thornton who filed for survivor benefits based on her 27 -year relationship with her partner.  Her partner died in 2006 before Washington state moved to legalize same sex marriage. The second lawsuit was filed by Arizona -based Michael Ely whose partner of 43 years died barely 6 months into their marriage in 2014. In his case, the marriage was considered to have not lasted long enough for survivor benefits to kick in, even though they married in the year that the state’s ban on marriage was struck down.

In both lawsuits, federal district courts ruled that the federal government was wrong in its decision to deny survivor’s benefits to the surviving partners. The Biden administration has now dismissed any appeals against those decisions, thereby clearing the path for survivor benefits for partners in same sex marriages in Georgia and across the country.

This decision means that all Americans who have paid into the Social Security program – and are, therefore, eligible to receive benefits – can continue to remain eligible for them even if they are in a same -sex marriage. The repercussions for the financial stability of same sex couples, therefore, is immense.