Lambda Legal Wins Lawsuit Against Feds For Social Security Benefits For Lesbian Widow

 

Today Lambda Legal announced the resolution of its lawsuit against the Social Security Administration (SSA) brought on behalf of Kathy Murphy, a Texas widow denied spousal benefits after the death of her wife, and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (the National Committee).

“The Social Security Administration has finally adjusted Kathy’s monthly SSA benefit to recognize the reality that she was married to her wife Sara and is a widow entitled to the same treatment as other survivors. We are also pleased to announce that the SSA has finally updated its instructions to its staff in accordance with the historic Obergefell v. Hodges ruling last June,” said Susan Sommer, National Director of Constitutional Litigation at Lambda Legal.

“SSA has also issued other guidance to staff to manage claims from the LGBT community. With this good news, including SSA’s long-awaited changes to its policies to conform to Obergefell, we are hopeful that LGBT widows, widowers and retirees, wherever they live, will be able to receive the Social Security spousal benefits to which they are entitled.

“LGBT people, who earned benefits through years of hard work, deserve to receive them without further delay and at long last to have their relationships treated with dignity by the federal government. Although SSA still needs to update some of its instructions and practices to fully recognize LGBT families and their rights to benefits, these recent developments come as a very welcome step. We call on the SSA to prioritize awarding benefits to the many LGBT people who were unfairly denied them in the past.”

For more than 30 years, Texas residents Kathy Murphy and Sara Barker shared their lives together. Three decades after they first met, Kathy and Sara legally married in Massachusetts in 2010. Like other married couples, they hoped to grow old together and to live out their retirement years in safety, security and dignity.

Tragically, Sara lost her battle with cancer in March 2012 at age 62, leaving Kathy a widow. Because the couple lived in Texas, which refused to recognize their marriage at the time of Sara’s death, SSA also wouldn’t recognize the marriage, denying Kathy spousal survivor’s benefits earned by Sara over a lifetime of work.