Last year, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges holding that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all states.

As a result, Social Security recognizes more same-sex couples as married for purposes of determining entitlement to Social Security benefits or eligibility for Supplemental Security Income payments.

We recently updated instructions for employees to process claims and appeals when a determination of marital status is necessary. As part of the new instructions, we have:

Removed from our policy any mention or consideration of the dates when states first recognized same-sex marriages from other states. These dates are no longer relevant.

Added the dates when some foreign jurisdictions allowed same-sex marriage, thereby eliminating the need for a case-specific legal review in many foreign same-sex marriage claims.

Updated and simplified our procedures for processing claims involving a transgendered or intersex person, allowing these individuals to self-identify as members of a same or opposite-sex marriage.

Streamlined and clarified the policy instructions, addressing questions raised by advocates and employees.

We encourage anyone who believes they may be eligible for benefits to apply now. Learn more at

John Johnston is a Social Security public affairs specialist.


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