Social Security and Same-Sex Marriage: Frequently Asked Questions [March 20, 2015]   [open pdf - 365KB]

"In 'United States v. Windsor,' the U.S. Supreme Court held that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional, finding, in part, that it violated the Constitution's equal protection and substantive due process guarantees. Section 3 had required that marriage be defined as the union of one man and one woman for the purpose of federal enactments. According to the court, federal statutes that refer to a marriage for federal purposes should be interpreted as applying equally to married same-sex couples. The Court did not address Section 2 of DOMA, which allows individual states to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages. In response to the 'Windsor' decision, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has started processing Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) applications for some claimants in same-sex marriages. OASDI is commonly known as Social Security. Eligibility for spousal benefits depends on marital status as defined by the state. However, the definition of marriage for the purposes of Social Security determinations remains in flux as state legislatures and courts continue to change and interpret these laws. It has been reported that SSA is currently working with the Department of Justice on interpreting the 'Windsor' decision and state laws regarding same-sex marriage. This report addresses a number of frequently asked questions regarding the eligibility of same-sex couples for Social Security benefits and the interpretation of state marriage laws. These questions include those relating to general eligibility and the application process for same-sex couples and those in other types of legal relationships."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R43961
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