Lambda Legal files case to extend Social Security benefits to all couples in nation

Today, Lambda Legal filed a case in the federal district court of Washington, D.C. against the Social Security Administration to win social security protections for same-sex couples regardless of their state laws on marriage. This case was filed on behalf of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and a Texas widow named Kathy Baker, who was denied spousal benefits after her wife passed away.

In June, the Obama administration extended social security benefits to same-sex couples who live in states with the freedom to marry. Although this was great news and brought relief to the hearts of many couples across the nation, it means that same-sex couples in states that do not respect their marriages cannot access social security benefits.

Kathy and her wife, Sara, were married in Massachusetts in 2010. Sara passed away in 2012 due to cancer, and Kathy is now denied her rightful social security because Texas does not respect their marriage. Kathy expressed her concern and frustration:

Sara and I were blessed with nearly 32 years together, taking care of each other in all the ways any committed couple does - physically, emotionally and financially. Sara wouldn’t have wanted me to be in a position like this—we promised to support each other as a couple and if one of us should pass away. We worked hard to close all the gaps before she died and now the federal government won’t do its part. That money will ensure that I can take care of the home that Sara and I shared together. We worked hard to support ourselves, and our dream was to grow old together, side-by-side. My hope now is that I will be treated no differently than any surviving spouse who has faced this same devastating loss.

Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said:

The basic tenets of the Social Security program are that if you contribute to the system throughout your working life, you and your family will receive those earned benefits in retirement, death or disability,” said Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee. “There is no rational reason why a couple living in Texas, or any other state, should continue to face this type of discrimination including the denial of the Social Security spousal benefits they have earned throughout their working lifetimes. It’s long past time to right this wrong.

Freedom to Marry applauds Lambda Legal for taking this step towards ensuring greater respect for all loving, committed couples, and urges the District Court of Washington, D.C. to rule against the anti-constitutional practice of denying legally married couples social security benefits.