Social Security Benefits in Limbo for Some Same-Sex Couples

The New York Times
By Tara Siegel Bernard
August 19, 2015

Same-sex couples may have won marriage equality, but some gay and lesbian individuals have been left wondering if their unions are still less than equal in the eyes of the government.

Kathy Murphy is one of them. She has been unable to collect survivor and death benefits from Social Security since she lost her spouse, Sara Barker, to cancer in 2012. Ms. Murphy retired from her career in publishing in 2011, earlier than she expected, to care for Ms. Barker, who died at 62.

Ms. Murphy finds herself in this predicament largely because her spouse died before the Supreme Court’s monumental ruling in June, Obergefell v. Hodges, which declared that marriage is a fundamental right. That case came after the landmark Windsor decision, in 2013, in which the court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits.

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