If you’re like me you thought invalidation of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by the Supreme Court last year brought equal treatment under the law to legally married same-sex couples. Yet a new bill from Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) makes it clear that this remains far from reality.
Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memorandum last February announcing that “same-sex marriages valid in the place where the marriage was celebrated” would be viewed as legal under federal law. That’s great since it would ensure that legally married same-sex couples would be recognized by the federal government no matter where they live in the United States. But this surprisingly isn’t the case at the Social Security Administration.
A couple of months after DOMA’s demise, acting commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) Carolyn Colvin announced that the agency would start “processing some retirement spouse claims for same-sex couples and paying benefits where they are due.” The only problem is that benefits claims from legally married same-sex couples living in states where marriage equality is not legal are put on hold. This is the discrepancy the Murray-Udall bill seeks to fix.
To be true to Colvin’s statement last year that the invalidation of DOMA “helps to ensure that all Americans are treated fairly and equally, with the dignity and respect they deserve,” the SSA must move quickly to right this wrong with an administrative fix. As much as I admire Murray’s and Udall’s legislative effort, we all know their bill is going nowhere given the state of affairs on Capitol Hill.
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