How will the Supreme Court's decision on Same Sex marriage affect Social Security benefits?

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was signed into law in 1996.  This law effectively defined marriage as between a man and a woman only.  This definition of marriage created a wide-ranging effect on issues from taxes, to healthcare, to Social Security benefits. According to Omaha Social Security lawyer, the Social Security benefits include retirement, survivorship and disability benefits. As more states have begun to recognize same sex marriage, this has created a situation where a couple is considered married in the state they reside, but not considered married by the federal government.  In a recent decision, the Supreme Court declared the federal government could not refuse to recognize a same sex marriage in states that allow same-sex marriage.


This decision should have an immediate effect on Social Security spousal and survivor’s benefits for thousands of married same sex couples couples living in states where same-sex marriage is recognized. Social Security’s policy has been to look to state law to determine whether a person is married.  By striking down DOMA, same sex married couples living in states that recognize same-sex marriage should now be considered married for purposes of Social Security benefits.  The court’s decision is also likely to extend benefits to those couples who live in states that recognize domestic partnerships.  Social Security was unprepared for the decision and the agency’s regulations will have to be redrafted to follow the court's decision.The question that was not before the court; and therefore has not been decided,the extent of the rights of a citizen of a state recognizes same sex marriage who moves to a state that does not recognize same sex marriage..DOMA  previously answered that states that did not recognize same sex marriage would not have to recognize the marriage of citizens from states that did. However, this issue has not been challenged at the Supreme Court.

While the DOMA decision was a victory for advocates of same sex marriage,many questions remain unanswered. The questions that remain to be answered will either have be decided by the courts or the legislatures. Currently 37 states do not recognize same sex marriage and the expansion of this status, will likely be slow. Iowa recognizes same sex marriage; while Nebraska does not recognize it.If you need information about applying for disability and live in Council Bluffs, Iowa contact us at (402) 933-5405 or email [email protected]

Timothy J. Cuddigan
Omaha Social Security and Veterans Disability Lawyer With Over 40 Years Experience