Prior to 2015, same-sex couples in America did not have the constitutional right to marry in every state. That all changed on June 26, 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled in Obergfell v. Hodges that, not only is the right for same-sex couples to marry constitutional in all fifty states, each state must also recognize same-sex marriages that occurred in every other state.
Where Social Security is concerned, your marital status bears great importance in terms of retirement, disability, and survivor benefit-eligibility, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) complies in all ways with the Supreme Court ruling mentioned above.
This commitment is significant because LGBTQ Americans tend to earn less than heterosexual Americans over the course of their working years, and they are, therefore, unable to set aside as much money for retirement. LGBTQ Americans also continue to face workplace discrimination and wage gaps; transgender Americans are particularly vulnerable because they are four times as likely to live in households with income less than $10,000.
For purposes of determining entitlement to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicare, and retirement benefits, SSA recognizes same-sex marriages in all states. There are also certain internationally-recognized relationships that Social Security will recognize for purposes of benefits.
Once married, you and your spouse will qualify for the same benefits for which heterosexual couples are qualified: spousal retirement benefits; spousal survivor benefits; and the lump-sum death benefit. If you have children, any adopted, biological, or stepchild can claim dependent benefits on the work records of both same-sex parents. But you may find it difficult to adopt a child if you are in a same-sex relationship because many states still prohibit homosexual couples from adopting children.
The same reporting requirements apply to same-sex couples as well as heterosexual couples. If you already receive some kind of Social Security benefits, and you get married, get divorced, or enter a non-marital legal relationship with another individual of any sex, your relationship status could affect your entitlement to benefits, and you must tell Social Security of any changes to your relationship status.
In the event that you were collecting Social Security benefits when you were married, and SSA stops your benefits because of that marriage or remarriage, you may be entitled to start collecting those benefits again should the marriage dissolve.
If you have questions about how your marital or non-marital legal relationship may affect current or future Social Security benefits, you may always call SSA toll-free at 1.800.772.1213, contact your local Social Security office, or call the SSA’s TTY line at 1.800.325.0778.