Now that marriage equality is the law of the land in every state, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration – which before the decision had continued to deny full benefits due to statutory language forcing them to look to the state of residence for the purpose of some benefits – will finally extend full benefits to married same-sex couples. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organisation praised the long awaited announcement.
“From Texas to Michigan and Montana to Florida, married same-sex couples across this country will finally have full access to federal benefits that had previously been denied them,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “We applaud Attorney General Lynch for her leadership in working to ensure these critical programs – from social security to veterans benefits – are finally extended to all legally married couples.”
In an exclusive statement to the Washington Blade, Attorney General Lynch said, “Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision in Obergefell that every couple has the same right to participate in the institution of marriage, whether the partners are of the same sex or opposite sexes, I directed Justice Department staff to work with the agencies to ensure that the ruling be given full effect across the federal government. Thanks to their leadership and the quick work of the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs, today I am proud to announce that the critical programs for veterans and elderly and disabled Americans, which previously could not give effect to the marriages of couples living in states that did not recognise those marriages, will now provide federal recognition for all marriages nationwide.”
In June of 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor, meaning the federal government could finally recognize lawfully married same-sex couples. The Obama Administration broadly and vigorously implemented the Windsor decision, and most federal agencies began to recognize all legally married same-sex couples regardless of where they lived. However, because of certain provisions in statute, some agencies – including the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs – had been unable to recognize same-sex couples living in states without marriage equality. With the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, marriage equality is the law of the land in all fifty states and these restrictions are no longer barriers.