Haaland Introduces Bill to Ensure Same-Sex Couples Have Same Marriage Rights as Everyone Else

June 18, 2020
Press Release
AGES Act named after Anthony Gonzales, a New Mexican who is struggling to receive survivors benefits because of outdated

Fact Sheet (PDF) | Bill Text (PDF)

Albuquerque, N.M. – Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01), a Vice Chair of the Equality Caucus, is introducing the Anthony Gonzales Equality for Survivors (AGES) Act, a bill named for an Albuquerque constituent who has struggled to receive survivors benefits because of an outdated marriage law discriminating against same-sex couples. Anthony Gonzales ran into hurdles when applying for survivors benefits through the Social Security Administration because he and his partner were unable to get married before New Mexico recognized marriage equality. Hundreds of bereaved LGBTQ+ Americans married as soon as they could, but, like  Anthony, they cannot collect their Social Security survivor’s benefits solely due to the lasting effects of discriminatory laws that require 9 months of marriage to qualify.

The AGES Act ensures that LGBTQ+ couples, who married shortly after the Supreme Court ruled it legal, have equal access to the Social Security Act’s survivor’s benefits. The bill’s introduction comes as the Supreme Court ruled to uphold labor non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ individuals.

“Same-sex couples deserve the same rights as heterosexual couples, but many couples are caught in the crosshairs of outdated marriage discrimination laws that take away their eligibility for survivors benefits they deserve. In honor of my constituent Anthony Gonzales, who is so bravely fighting for equality, I’m introducing a bill that will ensure same-sex couples don’t fall into the trap that outdated marriage laws have created,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland.

“We paid into the Social Security Administration for 30 years through our jobs,” said 65-year-old Gonzales. “It wasn’t fair that we were being punished for something we had no control over. I thank the Congresswoman on my behalf and on behalf of all the other surviving spouses fighting for fairness.”

Specifically, the AGES Act would:

  • Add an exemption for widow or widowers married in a state recognizing same-sex marriage as of June 26, 2013, during the nine-month period beginning with the day the Supreme Court ruled on United States v. Windsor overturning DOMA, June 26, 2013; and
  • Add an exemption for widow or widowers married during a nine-month period beginning with the day the Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell v. Hodges guaranteeing the right to marry, June 26, 2015, or on the first date on which the state recognized same-sex marriage if earlier than June 26, 2015; and
  • Mandate outreach by the Social Security Administration to inform same-sex marriage survivors that they are eligible for benefits.