Thursday, June 19, 2008

Social Security Must Recognize Children of Gay Couples

The Advocate is reporting

The Social Security Administration must recognize the children of same-sex couples, the Department of Justice determined Tuesday.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act prevents Washington from recognizing or providing benefits to same-sex couples, but it does not explicitly address the benefits of children of such couples.

"Although DOMA limits the definition of 'marriage' and 'spouse' for purposes of federal law, the Social Security Act does not condition eligibility for [benefits] on the existence of a marriage or on the federal rights of a spouse in the circumstances of this case; rather, eligibility turns upon the State's recognition of a parent-child relationship, and specifically, the right to inherit as a child under state law," stated the legal opinion prepared by Steven Engel, deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.

The opinion was delivered after a child of a lesbian couple who had a civil union in Vermont attempted to receive Social Security benefits.

The child's nonbiological parent began collecting her Social Security benefits in 2005, the year the child was born, and under Social Security law the minor children of adults who receive disability benefits can also claim benefits.