Perhaps Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage Will Force Real Social Security Reform

f9f5gaymarr2 Perhaps Legalizing Same Sex Marriage Will Force Real Social Security Reform

Lisa Leff, the Associated
Press’ go-to reporter on gay issues, takes note of some of the
potential tax benefits and – more importantly – changes to
entitlements that may come if the Supreme Court strikes down the

Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA):

For Mina Meyer and Sharon Raphael, two women in their 70s who
fell in love more than four decades ago and have been married for
more than four years, the U.S. Supreme Court’s pending
consideration of a law that prohibits the federal government from
recognizing unions like theirs is about more than civil rights.
It’s about buying a new roof for their California home, replacing
their 2005 Toyota Camry, and ensuring Meyer doesn’t take a
financial hit if Raphael dies first.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this month in a
challenge to a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA,
that denies legally married gay and lesbian couples federal
benefits available to heterosexual married couples, including tax
and Social Security benefits. A decision is not expected until the
end of June, but accountants and tax attorneys anticipating the
18-year-old law’s demise are already encouraging same-sex couples
like Raphael and Meyer to seek prospective tax refunds, back
retirement payments and other spousal subsidies they may have been
denied.

The case accepted by the Supreme Court involves a woman trying
to get a refund of the estate taxes she had to pay after her wife
died in 2009. Had their marriage been recognized, she wouldn’t have
had to pay anything, and now she wants that $363,000 back.
Much more interesting and scary – but maybe in a good way? – is
the possible impact on Social Security entitlements should DOMA get
struck down and the federal government be forced to recognize
same-sex marriages:

A 2009 study by The Williams Institute, a think tank on sexual
orientation and the law at the University of California, Los
Angeles, estimated that gay couples received an average of $3,060
less a year in Social Security benefits than married straight
couples. For lesbian couples, the disparity rose to $5,412. The
same study found that gay or lesbian widows or widowers lost out on
more than $5,700 a year in survivor benefits than their straight
counterparts received.
In the case of retirees Raphael and Meyer, it could mean an
additional $7,335 year in Social Security benefits because Meyer,
who worked in office jobs and a bookstore, would be entitled to the
Social Security benefits of Raphael, who earned considerably more
as a college professor for 40 years. That would boost their fixed
monthly income by about 10 percent. Last year, on the advice of a
professional colleague and with the high court poised to decide if
DOMA is constitutional, Meyer applied for more than a year’s worth
of retroactive benefits as well as bigger future checks if the law
is struck down.

If Social Security isn’t sustainable as it stands, just imagine
what’s coming down the line. Here is Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposal for
reforming Social Security included in the
GOP budget plan released today:

Require the President to submit a plan to shore up the Social
Security Trust Fund
Require Congress to submit a plan of its own

Way to go out on a limb, Ryan. I’m surprised no same-sex
marriage opponents have tried to scare the elderly with threats
that they’ll lose Social Security if the gays are allowed to get
married.

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Perhaps Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage Will Force Real Social Security Reform

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