Traditionally married couples receive certain government benefits for their marriage status, including Social Security spousal benefits that are provided after a spouse dies. But this benefit, among others, does not always carry over to same-sex marriages. A new Democratic bill strives to change that, but this new bill does not follow the Republican Party viewpoint on gay marriage.
What the Murray Bill Proposes
This new bill is the Social Security and Marriage Equality (SAME) Act of 2014, which was introduced by U.S. Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), among others. Senator Mark Udall’s website explains that under the current system, the only same-sex couples that can receive spousal benefits are ones that live in states that recognize same-sex marriage. This bill would change that to give spousal benefits to same-sex married couples regardless of the state they live in.
This Senate bill is a companion to a House bill from four representatives, including one Republican, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), explains Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty’s website.
Why Democrats Support the Bill
Democratic senators Murray and Udall created this bill because they felt that there are some inconsistencies for same-sex couples. Some couples are able to claim these Social Security benefits, while other couples’ benefits are put on hold. The distinction between couples is due to each couple’s state of residence. According to Senator Udall’s website, Senator Murray said, “Your zip code should not determine whether or not your family will have the means to survive after the death of a spouse.”
In addition, Democrats see inconsistencies in that gay marriage has taken strides nationally with same-sex couples being allowed to marry in some states and the Defense of Marriage Act being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, yet some of these same-sex married couples are still not able to receive the same benefits as other married couples.
On his website, Senator Udall is quoted as saying, “Nearly a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, there’s no excuse for the federal government to continue withholding federal benefits from legally married same-sex couples.”
The Philly website explains that some Congress Republicans support same-sex marriage, but that there are only six of them total. On the whole, Republicans are against gay marriage, instead following “the traditional definition of marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman,” explains Republican Views. This new bill is an attempt to broaden the scope of gay marriage, providing same-sex couples with more benefits and going over the heads of specific states that are against gay marriage.
This bill supports and encourages gay marriage, even in states that do not legalize or recognize gay marriage, since the bill would give benefits to same-sex couples in all states. This goes against the Republican stance, which Republican Views explains is for each state to determine its own ability whether or not to legalize gay marriage and whether or not to accept gay marriages from other states.
Overall, this new bill to provide Social Security benefits to same-sex couples does not coincide with Republican beliefs on gay marriage. Since the party does not support same-sex marriage to begin with, it follows that it will not support this bill to provide benefits to same-sex couples who are married.
Beyond the gay marriage issue, this bill also gives power to the federal government to go over each state’s decision on gay marriage, providing benefits even if the state does not legalize gay marriage or recognize it within the state. This aspect of the bill goes against the Republican belief in states’ rights.