Social Security Survivors Benefits Available to Same-Sex Partners Thanks to Historic Ruling

Older, mature, senior gay male couple, affectionate and in love, working together on financial documents at their dining room table at home.
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In a historic ruling, same-sex partners and spouses can now claim Social Security survivors’ benefits, Axios reports. In 2018, Lambda Legal sued the Social Security Administration over policies that prevented surviving partners from receiving Social Security benefits.

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Under the policy, a surviving partner could only apply for benefits if they had been married for nine months before their partner’s death. However, in states where gay marriage had recently been legalized, this was impossible. Plus, in the past, many surviving partners couldn’t file for benefits because their states prohibited them from being married at all.

Lambda Legal filed two lawsuits on behalf of same-sex couples who met either of these parameters. In 2020, the federal district courts in Arizona and Washington ruled the policies of excluding same-sex couples from survivors’ benefits were unconstitutional. But then-President Donald Trump appealed both cases.

On Nov. 1, 2021, the Justice Department and Social Security Administration, under the leadership of President Joe Biden, dismissed the appeals. Now, there is no “waiting period” to qualify for survivors’ benefits and same-sex partners will have equal access to Social Security survivors’ benefits.

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“This is 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,” Lambda Legal Counsel Peter Renn said in a statement on the Lambda Legal website.

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