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Yes. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges established a nationwide right for same-sex couples to wed. As a result, the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes same-sex marriages in all states. Same-sex spouses who wed in the United States are entitled to the same spousal, survivor and death benefits as any other married couple.
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For several years after the ruling, Social Security policies did preclude survivor benefits for some LGBTQ people who were prohibited from marrying by unconstitutional state laws prior to Obergefell. Following legal challenges, the SSA adopted new rules in late 2021 that expanded benefit eligibility for survivors of such couples.
Survivor benefit rules
In most circumstances, a surviving spouse can claim benefits on a late partner’s earnings record if they are at least 60 years old and had been legally married to the deceased for at least nine months at the time of death. Same-sex partners whose relationships predated Obergefell may qualify for survivor benefits if they meet either of these criteria:
- They would have been married at the time of their partner’s death if state laws hadn’t prevented them from doing so.
- They would have been married for at least nine months before the death of a spouse if state law hadn’t prevented them from marrying sooner.
The SSA says it will consider “all available evidence” to determine benefit eligibility for LGBTQ survivors who could not marry in their home states. It may request detailed information about the relationship, such as how long you and your partner were together, whether you owned property or raised children together, and whether you took steps to have the partnership formally recognized.
Social Security will consider requests to reopen benefit claims from same-sex survivors that were rejected under prior policies, even if your partner died decades ago. Contact the SSA to ask about your eligibility.