retirement

Social Security benefits and same-sex marriage

Gay married couples gain benefits
How gay married couples get shortchanged © zimmytws - Fotolia.com

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, is unconstitutional, same-sex married couples will have access to the same benefits as traditional married couples.

"Today, the Supreme Court affirmed that there should be no gay exception in how the federal government regards marriage. If you are married, you are married," said Mary Bonauto, civil rights project director for Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, or GLAD -- a leading advocacy group in the campaign to strike down DOMA -- in a press statement.

"Few of those benefits are more important than Social Security," says Crosby Burns, policy analyst of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress, an independent, nonpartisan educational institute based in Washington, D.C.

"This program forms part of the bedrock of our nation's safety net," Burns says. "With full and equal access to this social insurance program, families headed by same-sex couples will finally have access to the economic safeguards they need, intended to keep them out of poverty and afloat during hard times."

Chief among them, says Vickie Henry, senior staff attorney at GLAD, are the spousal benefit, the spousal disability benefit, the lump-sum benefit and the survivors benefit. The children of same-sex parents will also be affected.

Read on to see what married gay couples have gained in Social Security benefits, and the hurdles that remain.

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