On behalf of a man seeking survivor benefits after the death of his husband, the ACLU of Louisiana filed a memorandum with an Administrative Law Judge of the Social Security Administration in Lafayette, LA. Gerald Allen Beem, widower of William Floyd Conley, filed a claim for survivor benefits after the death of Mr. Conley on February 10, 2015. The couple was married in California on September 15, 2014, after having lived together and acted as a married couple since 1982. They held property jointly (including their home), had a joint checking account, they named each other in their wills, wore wedding bands, and were in all ways to their family and the community a married couple.
Although they were legally married in California at the time of Mr. Conley’s death, Louisiana did not yet recognize their marriage. For that reason Mr. Beem’s initial claim for survivor benefits was denied. Even after the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which established the right of same-sex couples to marry and made existing marriages retroactively valid in all 50 states, Mr. Beem’s claim was denied again.
“Gerald Beem is the surviving spouse of William Conley, and is entitled to the same social security benefits of any other surviving spouse,” said Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “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.”
A hearing was held on August 4, 2016. In January 2017, Mr. Beem was claim was granted in full.