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Social Security survivor benefits now available to previously ineligible same-sex partners

Social Security survivor benefits will now be available to same-sex partners who had been ineligible because they were not married to their spouses for the required minimum amount of time due to marriage laws.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Social Security Administration (SSA) on Monday dismissed their Trump-era appeals to two Ninth Circuit class action lawsuit rulings, both of which had previously found that surviving same-sex partners were denied fair access to Social Security survivor benefits.

The rulings specifically supported same-sex partners who were denied the benefits because the length of their marriage did not meet the minimum nine months needed for benefits due to previously restrictive same-sex marriage laws.

Federal district courts in Arizona and Washington ruled last year that the restrictions barring surviving same-sex partners from receiving benefits were unconstitutional, but the Trump administration appealed those rulings.

Peter Renn, counsel for Lambda Legal, which filed the two initial lawsuits, applauded the Biden administration for dismissing their appeals and called the development “historic.”

“We commend the Biden administration for respecting the constitutional rights of same-sex couples and choosing the right side of history. No one should continue to pay the price for past discrimination. Today’s development ensures that the door stays open for seniors who were wrongly locked out from critical benefits because of discriminatory laws,” Renn said in a statement.

“This a historic development with immense implications: survivor’s benefits are now equally available to everyone, including potentially thousands of same-sex partners who could not marry their loved ones and may have thought it was futile to apply,” he added.

 

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