One of the key pocketbook issues is that it is impossible for LGBT couples to access the valuable spousal, survivor and death benefits from Social Security, although they pay the same FICA taxes as heterosexual workers, and are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty than heterosexual seniors. Average Social Security benefits are 32 percent lower for LGBT couples than for heterosexual couples, according to The Williams Institute, a think tank focused on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy at the UCLA School of Law.The Social Security problems center on the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as existing only between a man and a woman. Under Social Security's rules, spouses can receive the greater of their own benefit or half of a spouse's benefit. And a surviving spouse can receive the greater of his or her own benefit, or 100 percent of the spouse's benefit.
No states had enacted same-sex marriage laws before the passage of the DOMA during the Clinton years. Now, in a state such as Massachusetts, it's possible to have two couples - one straight, one gay - both with the same marriage papers. One couple can access Social Security's spousal and survivor benefits, but the other can't.