The Social Security Administration has announced that the only same-sex married couples entitled to their spouses’ social security benefits are those living in marriage equality states. All claims from couples who are legally married in marriage equality states or countries, but live in states that prohibit same-sex marriage, will be put on hold.
“I am pleased to announce that Social Security is now processing some retirement spouse claims for same-sex couples and paying benefits where they are due,” said acting Social Security commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin.
The agency’s website has been updated to reflect eligibility by same-sex couples as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.
“Because of the decision, we are no longer prohibited from recognizing same-sex marriages for purposes of determining benefits,” the new rules read.
The SSA gives specific examples. If a couple is married in Massachusetts and files a claim but then moves to Texas, the claim would be approved because it will use domicile at time of application. If they file while living in Texas, the website says, the claim would be put on hold.
Additional guidance may be issued later that would apply benefits to all married couples. Denying couples the right to claim a spouse’s Social Security puts pressure on non-equality states, especially those with civil unions or domestic partnerships, to update their laws.
Meanwhile, the Labor Department issued a ruling on Friday that applies to couples in all states.
Same-sex couples are entitled to participate in the Family Medical Leave Act. Married same-sex couples are eligible to take time off from work if one spouse becomes seriously ill or injured, the Labor Department decided.
The law covers people who work for companies with 50 or more employees.
This guidance applies across the country, and is based on place of marriage rather than place of residence.
Federal workers began putting same-sex spouses on their health insurance and retirement benefits two days after the court’s ruling.