Historic LGBTQ Rights Case Highlighted by New York Times
Our attorneys played a prominent role in landmark civil rights litigation highlighted in the New York Times article “Social Security Opens to Survivors of Same-Sex Couples Who Could Not Marry” (subscription required).
Along with co-counsel, Lambda Legal, Rob Thornton and Linda Larson successfully challenged the denial of Social Security survivor’s benefits to same sex couples who were prohibited from marrying by discriminatory state laws. In 2020 the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington concluded that the denial of Social Security benefits to the plaintiffs violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The Social Security Administration has dismissed its appeal of the District Court’s judgment.
This is the first case to determine the rights of a surviving partner to Social Security spousal benefits where the couple was unable to marry under state law prior to the death of the plaintiff’s partner. The New York Times noted, “Challenging the policy that limited survivor’s benefits to married couples took years and a class-action lawsuit.”
As a result of the win in the case, the paper added, “Social Security Administration now allows gay men and lesbians to receive survivor’s benefits if they can show that they were in a committed relationship and would have married had that been possible.”