Louisiana: Gay widower denied Social Security survivor benefits

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A civil rights group said Tuesday it is seeking Social Security survivor benefits for a Louisiana man who legally married his husband in California before a 2015 Supreme Court ruling established a nationwide right to same-sex marriage.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana said Gerald Allen Beem and William Floyd Conley had lived together since 1982. Louisiana residents since 1997, they were legally married in California in 2014.

Conley died in February 2015, before the Supreme Court decision. The ACLU said in a news release that the Social Security Administration in Lafayette denied benefits to Beem even after the court decision.

“Gerald Beem is the surviving spouse of William Conley, and is entitled to the same social security benefits of any other surviving spouse,” Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said in a news release. “The law is clear that his marriage must be recognized. Mr. Beem, having lost his husband and his partner of more than three decades, deserves the respect that any other spouse would receive.”

The ACLU said the case will be heard Aug. 4 by a Social Security administrative judge. The Social Security Administration declined comment on the case, citing privacy concerns, in an email from its Dallas office Tuesday evening.

Esman said in an email that the ACLU has filed confidential documents in the case and that the August hearing will be closed to the public.

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