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  • Nic F. Anderson

Senators Ask IRS and Treasury to Examine Benefits for LGBTQ+ Couples

Currently, LGBTQ+ couples are denied the right to receive survivor benefits from certain pension plans due to not meeting the requirement of being legally married for at least one year before their partner died.

U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and 43 other Democratic senators have sent an open letter, asking the Biden Administration; Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen; and IRS Commissioner, Charles P. Rettig, to update the Obama Administration’s pension guidance that allows some retirement and pension plans to exclude LGBTQ+ couples who do not meet certain requirements, specifically the requirement of having been married for a year before their partner passed away.

Gay marriage was only legalized on June 26, 2015 which prevented many from being married or died shortly after being married. “They were in loving, committed relationships and would have married earlier if they could… We should not let the echoes of the bigotry that robbed so many people of the right to marry for so long rob them once again after they have lost their loved ones,” the letter states.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) already updated policies that tackle the legal limitations LGBTQ+ couples experienced before marriage equality was legalized. For example, SSA is reconsidering survivor benefit claims from LGBTQ people who were unable to meet the nine months of marriage requirement.

“The IRS should do the same for pension survivor benefits… Just as laws barring same-sex couples from marriage are unconstitutional, so, too, are exclusions from survivor benefits that are tied to those marriage bans… Correcting this error will end the discriminatory treatment of potentially thousands of same-sex partners and spouses, and allow them to access the benefits they are owed,” the letter states.

Both New York senators, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), signed on to the letter.

Same Sex Pension Letter (12.9.21)
Download PDF • 2.31MB

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