Another reminder that same-sex couples aren’t equal: Social Security benefits

Posted on 03 Sep 2010 at 11:44pm

Steve Vernon at MoneyWatch.com took a look at retirement planning for gay and lesbian couples and provides some financial advice. And, it also provide an example of how same-sex couples aren’t equal:

Unfortunately, Social Security does not recognize gay marriage (see footnote 1), as was verified by a phone representative at Social Security who talked with my research associate. With a gay couple, the Social Security income that your household receives is the sum of each of your Social Security benefits, based on your own earnings record. When one of you dies, that person’s Social Security income stops. This is different from married straight couples, for whom survivors’ benefits are paid to the spouse.

Here’s that footnote 1:

Under Federal law an individual whose claim for benefits is based on a State recognized same-sex marriage or having the same status as spouse for State inheritance purposes cannot meet the statutory gender-based definition of widow or widower of the worker, including one who is divorced. Therefore, for all benefit purposes, the Social Security Administration does not recognize such individual as the widow or widower of the deceased worker.

That’s thanks to Section 3 of DOMA.

Remember, a federal court judge found section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional. The decision has been stayed pending appeal. We’ll know by October 18 if the Obama administration intends to appeal the decision. It’s widely expected that they will. Until DOMA is overturned by the courts or Congress repeals it, we’re not equal.




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