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Obama Extends Social Security Benefits To Same-Sex Married Couples

President Barack Obama's new $4 trillion budget plan is distributed by Senate Budget Committee staffer Eric Chalmers as it arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, early Monday, Feb. 02, 2015.

CREDIT: AP/J. Scott Applewhite.

Many aspects of President Barack Obama’s $4 trillion budget for the 2016 fiscal year have been making headlines, including new rules applying to student borrowers. Also in the new budget are provisions that ensure married same-sex couples will be able to receive Social Security benefits no matter where they live.

Currently, married same-sex couples are unable to get benefits if they live in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage. The FY 2016 budget ensures that this will no longer happen by changing key parts of the Social Security Act.

This is the first time Obama has suggested a change of this type, though he has openly supported same-sex marriage since 2012. Obama’s proposed budget has to be passed by the Republican-led Congress before it becomes law.

“Full marriage equality comes with over 1,100 rights and responsibilities on a federal levelrights that allow spouses to protect and care for each other in sickness and in health. Basic rights such as Social Security spousal and survivor benefits can make a world of difference and shouldn’t depend on what state you live in,” Stuart Gaffney, Communications Director for Marriage Equality USA, said about the FY 16 budget. “By extending this basic benefit of marriage to all married same-sex couples, the administration is ensuring that as couples and families move from state to state they can be assured that these benefits extend from coast to coast.”

The budget says that for couples who have benefits and live in a state where same-sex marriage is legal still have the same protections and benefits even if they were to move to a state where same-sex marriage is not legal.

The Obama administration was sued last October over this very issue. Kathy Murphy was unable to access Social Security benefits after she moved from Massachusetts to Texas after her wife died.

Not having the same social security benefits that all other married couples have can be difficult for same-sex couples. For instance, a same-sex couple who married in New York, but whose job transferred them to Michigan, a state without marriage equality, could face losing their social security protections as a married couple, Gaffney explains.

“No other married couples face this uncertainty. The administration’s actions should correct this unfairness and provide much needed security for these couples,” he said.

The FY 16 budget also includes LGBT people as a protected population, allowing LGBT people around the world to benefit from the Department of State’s Human Rights and Democracy Fund, which helps groups monitor and promote human rights worldwide.

Kelsey Meany is a reporter with Generation Progress.

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