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Baldwin, Murray, Kind Introduce Bill to Ensure All Same-Sex Spouses Have Access to Benefits They Have Earned

SAME Act would amend the Social Security Act so that all legal marriages are appropriately recognized

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Patty Murray (D-WA), along with Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) introduced the Social Security and Marriage Equality (SAME) Act of 2015 to ensure all same-sex spouses receive equal treatment under the Social Security Act when applying for Social Security benefits, regardless of where they live. Eligibility for spousal benefits provided under the Social Security Act is determined by a place of residence standard. This standard has resulted in applications for Social Security benefits for legally married same-sex spouses living in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage not being approved. The SAME Act provides a roadmap to ensure all legally married couples have equal access to the benefits they have earned.

"For the last six months, all Wisconsinites have fully enjoyed the benefit of marriage equality. Unfortunately legally married same-sex couples in Wisconsin face uncertainty if moving to a state where their marriage is not recognized,” said Senator Tammy Baldwin. “The SAME Act will provide fairness and equality for legally married same-sex couples under the Social Security Act, regardless of where they live. While I am hopeful the Supreme Court will soon remove the necessity of such measures, I am proud to join this effort to build on our nation’s founding belief that all Americans are created free and equal under the law.”

“All legally married same-sex couples deserve equal treatment under the law, regardless of their zip code,” said Senator Patty Murray. “Where you live should not determine whether your family is economically secure following the death of a spouse, and it shouldn't prevent your family from receiving the benefits you have earned. The SAME Act would help ensure equality under federal law does not end at state lines.”

“No matter where in America a married couple decides to live, they should take comfort in knowing that their union will be treated equally under the law,” said Rep. Ron Kind. “Social Security spousal benefits offer economic security and peace of mind. Every married couple who contributes to the social security system should enjoy the same benefits. This is about basic fairness and I’m proud to help lead this bipartisan effort to ensure equality for every American citizen.”

In its 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and found that the federal government may not, through its laws, create a subset of unequal marriages. As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, married same-sex couples who live in states that recognize their marriage were eligible for the same protections, responsibilities, and access to federal programs afforded all other married couples, including taxes, immigration, and bankruptcy. However, inequality remains for legally married couples living in states that do not recognize their marriage, including under the Social Security Act’s place of residence standards. There are 55 lawsuits pending in Federal Court, with six of these involving the marriage laws of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, accepted for review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Oral arguments of theses appeals is set for April 28, 2015.

The SAME Act’s Senate cosponsors include: Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Tom Udall (D-NM).

Cosponsors in the House of Representatives include: Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Susan Davis (D-CA), John Lewis (D-GA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Patrick Murphy (D-FL), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Scott Peters (D-CA), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Sam Farr (D-CA), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Jared Polis (D-CO), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Mike Honda (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Judy Chu (D-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Lois Capps (D-CA), Mike Quigley (D-IL), John Delaney (D-MD), Alan Grayson (D-FL), John Garamendi (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) and Jim McGovern (D-MA).

The bill has received support from advocates and organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, Social Security Works, the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, OWL-The Voice of Women 40+, Pride Foundation, and Greater Seattle Business Association.

“All legally married same-sex couples deserve to be treated fairly and equally when accessing their federal benefits, no matter what state they happen to live in,” said David Stacy, Government Affairs Director for the Human Rights Campaign.  “Social Security benefits are critical for retirement security and same-sex couples in non-marriage equality states are unfairly denied benefits they have earned through their payroll contributions. We are thankful to Senator Patty Murray, Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Ron Kind for their strong, passionate, and consistent leadership working to end this injustice.”

"It is heartening to see a growing number of states - 37 and counting - are treating same-sex couples the same as all other couples under the law. But couples living in states that haven't yet enacted marriage equality should not be denied their earned Social Security benefits. Senator Patty Murray, Senator Tammy Baldwin, and Representative Ron Kind’s SAME act will ensure that all couples are treated the equally under our nation's Social Security system," said Eric Kingson, Co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition, Social Security Works

"We applaud Senator Patty Murray, Senator Tammy Baldwin, and Representative Ron Kind for championing equality, decency, and fairness by sponsoring the Social Security and Marriage Equality ("SAME") Act of 2015. This important legislation would ensure that all married couples, whomever they love and wherever they live, are treated equally and fairly by Social Security.  Through hard work and contributions, these couples have earned their Social Security benefits.  Prejudice should not keep them from receiving these vital earned benefits," said Nancy Altman, founding co-director of Social Security Works.

"We thank Senator Murray, Senator Baldwin and Representative Kind for their leadership in reintroducing the Social Security and Marriage Equality (SAME) Act. If enacted, this bill could mean the difference between an LGBT person being able to make ends meet and being forced to live under extreme financial hardship. Equality should not stop at state lines and this legislation will go a long way towards ensuring that same-sex couples have access to the Social Security benefits they have earned." said Rea Carey, Executive Director, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund.

"SAGE congratulates Senators Murray, Senator Baldwin, and Representative Kind on introducing this important legislation,” said Michael Adams, Executive Director, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). “After facing a lifetime of discrimination and lower earnings, LGBT older adults have higher poverty rates than other elders.”  “The least we can do is ensure that LGBT older adults are treated like first class citizens when it comes to receiving the Social Security benefits they have earned."

“…we support enactment of the SAME Act because the civil rights of same sex couples have been denied far too long. Justice delayed for LGBT families who live in states that do not recognize same sex marriage is justice denied. It is time to remove one of the key remaining barriers to marriage equality by making all couples and their children fully eligible to receive retirement, disability, survivor and spousal Social Security benefits regardless of where they live and who they love,” said Max Richtman President and CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

“Since its founding 35 years ago, OWL has fought to defend and strengthen Social Security, as it is vitally important to women’s economic security.  Without Social Security’s life-long, inflation-adjusted benefits, half of all American older women would live in poverty, and many more would live on the margins of poverty. OWL endorses the SAME Act because we believe that all people deserve retirement security, and equal treatment for same-sex spouses under the Social Security Act when applying for Social Security benefits, regardless of where they live, can help ensure all Americans achieve it,” OWL-The Voice of Women 40+

The SAME Act would amend title II of the Social Security Act to:

• Confer spousal benefits to any individual legally married in United States.

• Eliminate the requirement that the spouse reside in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage to be eligible for Social Security benefits.

• Ensure spouses legally married outside the United States are eligible for Social Security benefits.

Read the legislative text of the bill here.