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Same-Sex Couples Could More Easily Claim Federal Benefits Under This Democratic Bill


"Marriages don't end when couples cross state lines."

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 30: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (C) answers reporters' quesitons during a news conference with (L-R) Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) at the U.S. Capitol April 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. Members of the Democratic leadership held the news conference moments after the Senate failed to open debate on the bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senate Democrats are looking to expand the ability of same-sex couples to gain access to Social Security benefits.

Social Security allows spouses to claim benefits once they turn 62 years old, even if they never worked. Under current law, spouses in same-sex couples must live in states that recognize same-sex marriage in order to claim these benefits.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), far right, and other Democrats have proposed a bill making it easier for same-sex couples to claim Social Security benefits. (Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla)

But under the SAME Act from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the Social Security Administration would have to grant spousal benefits to anyone who was legally married, regardless of where they live. That means a same-sex couple that was married legally in one state could claim spousal benefits even if they move to a state that doesn't allow same-sex marriages.

"The current delay of survivor benefits claims by the Social Security Administration not only places an unfair economic burden on legally married same-sex couples, but an extremely emotional one as well," Murray said. "Your zip code should not determine whether or not your family will have the means to survive after the death of a spouse.

"While I believe the Social Security Administration can, and should, resolve this inconsistency through administrative action, the SAME Act would provide a roadmap to ensure equality under our federal laws do not end at state lines," she said.

The Supreme Court overturned the key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

In response to that ruling, Attorney General Eric Holder said the government would view a same-sex marriage as valid if it took place in a state that had legalized same-sex marriage, and not where the couple lives. Murray's bill operates on the same principle by having the Social Security Administration recognize the "place of celebration" of the marriage.

Her bill would also confer Social Security benefits to anyone legally married outside the United States.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), a cosponsor of the bill, said Congress needs to change Social Security accessibility for same-sex couples nearly a year after the Supreme Court's decision on the Defense of Marriage Act.

"Marriages don't end when couples cross state lines, and neither should the federal benefits they have earned," he said. "Whether it's veterans' home loans or spousal survivor benefits, I won't rest until the federal government treats all marriages equally."

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