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Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty

Representing the 5th District of Connecticut

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Rep. Elizabeth Esty Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Provide Social Security Benefits for All Legally Married Couples

May 20, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Elizabeth H. Esty (CT-5) joined her colleagues Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Allyson Y. Schwartz (D-PA) in introducing the Social Security and Marriage Equality (SAME) Act, which would amend the Social Security Act to ensure that all same-sex spouses receive equal treatment when applying for Social Security benefits regardless of which state they live in.

“Marriage equality is personal for many American families, including my own,” Esty said. “A few years ago, I was thrilled when my brother married his long-time partner—something they had previously been denied the right to do. While we’ve taken steps toward a more inclusive, more equal future, there is still work to do. That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the SAME Act to ensure that all couples—regardless of their sexual orientation and regardless of the state in which they live—receive the Social Security benefits they‘ve earned after lifetimes of hard work.”

“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 Reps. Ron Kind, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Allyson Schwartz and Elizabeth Esty 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.”

In the Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor of 2013, the Court overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and found that the federal government may not create two classes of marriage. But the Windsor decision offered minimal guidance as to the status of legally married couples who live in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages. That lack of guidance is having a major economic and emotional impact on those who lose a spouse in a same-sex marriage.

The Social Security Act determines eligibility for spousal benefits by place of residence. As a result, holds are being placed on applications for Social Security benefits for legally married same-sex spouses who live in states that do not recognize their marriages.

The SAME Act (H.R. 4664) would serve as a roadmap for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to follow, to ensure that all legal marriages are recognized equally. The bill would override current SSA policy that requires a spouse to reside in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage in order to be eligible for Social Security spousal benefits, and would provide full spousal benefits to all citizens who were legally married in the United States or in another country.

Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Mark Udall (D-CO) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) are leading companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.