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

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.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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