News Releases

LGBT: Sens. Murray and Udall Introduce Bill to Ensure Equality for Same-Sex Spouses

May 08 2014

SAME Act would amend the Social Security Act so that all legal marriages are appropriately recognized

Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced the Social Security and Marriage Equality (SAME) Act of 2014 to ensure all same-sex spouses receive equal treatment under the Social Security Act when applying for Social Security benefits, regardless of where they live. Eligibility for spousal benefits provided under the Social Security Act are determined by a place of residence standard. This standard has resulted in applications for Social Security benefits for legally married same-sex spouses living in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage being placed on hold.  A more appropriate standard for a federal agency like the Social Security Administration would be so-called “place of celebration,” which recognizes any legal marriage that takes place in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage.

“The current delay of survivor benefits claims by the Social Security Administration not only places an unfair economic burden on legally married same-sex couples, but an extremely emotional one as well,” said Senator Patty Murray. “Your zip code should not determine whether or not your family will have the means to survive after the death of a spouse. While I believe the Social Security Administration can, and should, resolve this inconsistency through administrative action, the SAME Act would provide a roadmap to ensure equality under our federal laws do not end at state lines.”

“Nearly a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, there’s no excuse for the federal government to continue withholding certain federal benefits from legally married same-sex couples. That's why I am proud to lead the effort to ensure the Social Security Administration doesn’t discriminate against anyone who is appropriately eligible for spousal benefits," said Senator Mark Udall. “Marriages don’t end when couples cross state lines, and neither should the federal benefits they have earned. Whether it’s veterans’ home loans or spousal survivor benefits, I won’t rest until the federal government treats all marriages equally.”

“Every legally married, same-sex couple deserves to have their marriage fully recognized by the federal government regardless of where they live or what federal benefits they have earned,” said David Stacy, Government Affairs Director, Human Rights Campaign. “We are grateful to Senators Patty Murray and Mark Udall for bringing attention to the essential protections provided by Social Security.  Their strong, passionate and consistent leadership is moving us closer to an America where every citizen is treated equally regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

"SAGE congratulates Senators Murray and Udall on introducing this important legislation,” said Michael Adams, Executive Director, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). “It is high time that LGBT older adults were treated like first class citizens when it comes to receiving the Social Security benefits they have earned through a life of hard work." 

“We applaud Senator Murray for introducing the Social Security and Marriage Equality (SAME) Act of 2014 and for her leadership on this issue of vital importance to the LGBT community,” said Kris Hermanns, Executive Director of Pride Foundation. “This legislation will ensure that all loving and committed married couples are treated equally under the Social Security Act. It will also provide profound financial and emotional security for LGBT couples and their families across the country.”

"Being able to receive spousal social security benefits is one of the most important economic protections married spouses offer each other," said Louise Chernin, the CEO of the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), the Puget Sound region’s LGBT and allied chamber of Commerce. "GSBA applauds Senator Murray for introducing the Social Security and Marriage Equality Act ensuring this critical benefit and protection is available to all legally married couples, including same sex married couples, regardless of where they live."    

In its 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and found that the federal government may not, through its statutes, create two classes of marriage.  To implement the ruling, the U.S. Attorney General issued a memorandum to his Department on February 10, 2014, regarding Department policy on treatment of same-sex married couples. In this memorandum, the Attorney General repeatedly relies on a “place of celebration” standard in determining the validity of marriages for purposes of Department of Justice policies and procedures. In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Social Security Administration should be afforded the same standard in order to conform to Windsor and avoid further discrimination against legally married same-sex couples. While the Social Security Administration has the ability to resolve this inconsistency through administrative action, the SAME Act provides a roadmap to ensure equal access. 

The SAME Act would amend the Social Security Act to:

  • Confer Spousal Benefits to any individual legally married in United States.
  • Eliminate the requirement that the spouse reside in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage in order to be eligible for Social Security benefits.
  • Ensure spouses legally married outside the United States are eligible for Social Security benefits.

The SAME Act has been endorsed by: Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), Human Rights Campaign, National Committee for the Preservation of Social Security and Medicare, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, OWL National, Pride Foundation, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), Social Security Works