This notice contains important information if you are a surviving spouse of a same-sex marriage who applied for Social Security widow(er)’s benefits on your late spouse’s record, but your claim was denied because your marriage did not last for 9 months.

On May 27, 2020, the United States District Court for the District of Arizona certified a nationwide class defined as follows:

All persons nationwide who (i) presented claims for and were denied, or will present claims for and be denied, Social Security spousal survivor’s benefits based on not being married to a same-sex spouse for at least nine months at the time of the spouse’s death and (ii) were prohibited by unconstitutional laws barring same-sex marriage from being married for at least nine months.

Additionally, the court prohibited the agency from denying claims for Social Security widow(er)’s benefits filed by surviving spouses of same-sex couples when the marriage did not last at least 9 months without first considering whether unconstitutional State laws prohibiting same-sex marriage prevented the couple from being married for at least 9 months.

If you think that you are a member of the Ely class and entitled to relief under this case, we encourage you to contact Social Security right away.

If you were never married to your same-sex partner and were denied widow(er)’s benefits you may be a member of a different class action, Thornton v. Commissioner of Social Securityi. For more information about the Thornton class action, please click on this link: Thornton v. Commissioner of Social Security

If You Have Any Questions

If you have any specific questions, you may contact your local field office. To find your local field office’s contact information, visit Please reference this webpage when you contact the agency. It will help us answer your questions.

Updated on 10/15/2021