The plaintiff attorneys in two federal lawsuits seeking retroactive Social Security spousal benefits for same-sex couples said Thursday that they were told that the Social Security Administration would start processing those claims.
Lambda Legal, which provides legal services in LGBT cases, announced that it was told in a status conference with Justice Department lawyers that the claims of plaintiffs in the cases being heard in a Chicago federal court will now be considered by the SSA. A status conference is a pretrial meeting of attorneys for both sides in a case.
The plaintiffs — Dave Williams, formerly of Arkansas, and Kathy Murphy of Texas — were denied standard spousal benefit claims because their marriages took place in states that had not recognized the legality of same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that state bans against such marriages were unconstitutional. The spouses of both plaintiffs are now deceased.
Susan Sommer, Lambda Legal’s director of constitutional litigation who headed Williams and Murphy’s legal team, said in a statement that the Social Security Administration “will soon announce a change to their spousal benefits policy that could right a wrong for hundreds of same-sex spouses … whose claims are still in the administrative process or in litigation because their home states refused to recognize their marriages.”
Neither the Justice Department nor the Social Security Administration has yet released a statement confirming the policy change.