Peters Cosponsors Legislation to Protect Rights for Same-Sex Couples

Bill Ensures Same-Sex Couples Are Eligible for Social Security Benefits

WASHINGTON, DC –U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today announced that he is cosponsoring the Social Security and Marriage Equality (SAME) Act to ensure that same-sex spouses receive equal treatment when they apply for Social Security Benefits, regardless of where they live.

“No American should face discrimination just because of who they love. Though Michigan does not legally recognize same-sex marriages, it is important for all eligible couples to have access to these essential benefits and the financial security they can provide,” said Senator Peters. “As a longtime supporter of marriage equality, I’m proud to cosponsor this legislation that will ensure same-sex couples are entitled to the benefits they have earned.”

Eligibility for Social Security spousal benefits is based on the recipient’s state of residence, which prevents same-sex couples who are legally married but living in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage from being eligible for spousal benefits.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional on June 26, 2013, and as a result, the Social Security Administration is no longer prevented from providing benefits to legally married same-sex couples. However, because there is a residency standard applied to eligibility for benefits, applications for benefits for same-sex couples living in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages have been put on hold.

The SAME Act would make same-sex couples in all states eligible for spousal benefits and eliminate the requirement that the spouse live in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages. It would also ensure that spouses legally married outside of the United States are also eligible for benefits.

Senator Peters has been a strong supporter of equal rights. Earlier this month, Senator Peters signed on to an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of equality and overturn Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban, which was upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in November 2014. He also recently cosponsored the Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act, which would extend veterans benefits to same-sex military couples and dependents regardless of the state they live in.

Though the state of Michigan currently does not recognize same-sex marriages, 300 Michigan same-sex couples were married during a brief time in March 2014 after a U.S. District Court judge ruled Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Senator Peters worked with the Department of Justice to ensure that the federal government recognized those as legal same-sex marriages, and that those couples received their full federal benefits.