For gays and lesbians who have lost their spouse, the inability to collect Social Security survivor benefits highlights just one of the many ways in which gay married couples are treated differently than their heterosexual counterparts under federal law. In opposite-sex couples who have been married for a certain length of time, survivors are entitled to collect an amount equal to the deceased’s benefits, even in the case of divorced spouses. This is because the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as being between a man and a woman only, depriving same-gender couples from all federal rights.
On average, the surviving spouse in a same-sex union is denied an average of $1,184 in monthly survivor benefits, according to a new report released last week from Human Rights Campaign and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare.
Read the story of Marvin Burrows, on Huffpo, who with the grief of losing his partner of 50 years, found he was further hardship through the prejudice he experienced in his financial life, as everythign crumbled around him. He lost his home, his pets and even his furniture when he was forced to downsize. All for the simple reason that he is gay.
Without Social Security benefits, it is estimated that half of all Americans over the age of 65 would be living below the poverty line, according to the new report. “The denial of Social Security benefits to same-sex partners and their children places this already vulnerable population at even higher risk for poverty,” the report states.
Gay marriage advocates are urging Congress to amend the Social Security Act so that same-sex couples are able to collect the same spousal benefits that their straight counterparts can collect.