The Social Security Administration is urging married gay and lesbian couples living in Marin to apply for benefits for the first time in history, following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling this June, the Marin Independent Journal is reporting.
"For too long, you have been treated as second-class citizens with regard to government benefits," said Grace Kim, a regional commissioner for the San Francisco Social Security Administration, at an event held at Novato's Homeward Bound this week. "Now is the time for you to receive your rights."
The benefits include the spousal survivor benefit, the spousal retirement benefit and the lump-sum death benefit. The survivor benefit enables the surviving spouse of a worker entitled to Social Security retirement to receive benefits based on the deceased spouse's earning record.
The spousal retirement benefit help people whose calculated Social Security benefit is lower than that of his or her spouse. Under the law, the spouse that earns less may take half of his or her spouse's higher benefit, rather than receive the amount calculated from his own earnings.
The lump-sum death benefit offers assistance from the federal government to pay for funeral arrangements.
This June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the section of the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as a "union between a man and a woman." The case, United States v. Windsor, involved Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, who married in Canada in 2007 after being in a relationship for 40 years.
When Spyer died in 2009, Windsor was forced to pay $363,053 in federal taxes on Spyer’s estate, which she would not have had to pay if she’d been Spyer’s husband.
She argued that DOMA, which prevented her from being considered Spyer’s spouse for federal purposes, cost her $363,053. In a 5-4 decision, with the majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court ruled that the section of DOMA defining marriage as between a man and a woman violates the Equal Protection Clause and is therefore unconstitutional.
The workshop was sponsored by the Marin Community Foundationand the Spectrum LGBT Center, and part of an ongoing effort to educate LGBT Americans about Social Security benefits, according to the IJ. For more information, visit www.ssa.gov or call the San Francisco office of the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.