You asked whether, for purposes of establishing entitlement to a lump-sum death payment,
the claimant D~ (Claimant) was married to deceased wage earner M~ (the DWE).
Yes. Claimant is eligible for the lump-sum death payment based on her marriage to
SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE
Claimant and the DWE were married in Mexico City, Mexico on April XX, 2015. They registered
their civil marriage. The DWE died on April XX, 2017. Her permanent domicile was W~,
The Social Security Act (Act) provides for a lump-sum death payment (LSDP) to the
surviving spouse of an individual who died fully insured. Social Security Act § 202(i);
20 C.F.R. § 404.390; Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00210.600. The agency
will find a claimant is the surviving spouse of an insured individual if the courts
of the State in which the insured was domiciled at the time of death would find that
the claimant was validly married to the insured when she died. Social Security Act
§ 216(h)(1)(A)(i). The claimant must also have been living in the same household as
the insured at the time of death, and the claimant must apply for the LSDP within
two years after the insured’s death. Social Security Act § 202(i); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.390,
404.391; POMS RS 00210.600.
With respect to the agency’s application of State marriage laws, we note that in Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2604-05 (2015), the Supreme Court held State laws invalid to the
extent they exclude same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms and conditions
as opposite-sex couples. Pursuant to Harper v. Virginia Dep't of Taxation, 509 U.S. 86, 94-98 (1993), SSA should give Obergefell full retroactive effect in all cases still open on direct review and as to all events,
regardless of whether such events predate or postdate Obergefell. As a result, SSA will consider State-law same-sex-marriage bans, whether based on
State constitutional or statutory provisions or case law, void and ineffective. SSA
will apply the relevant law to the facts as usual to evaluate marital status.
The California Family Code provides that “[a] marriage contracted outside this state
that would be valid by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the marriage was contracted
is valid in this state.” Cal. Fam. Code § 308; Rosales v. Battle, 113 Cal. App. 4th 1178, 1183, 7 Cal. Rptr. 3d 13 (Cal. App. Ct. 2003) (applying
the marriage laws of the State of Baja California, Mexico to determine the validity
of a foreign marriage pursuant to California Family Code § 308(a)).
Because the DWE and Claimant were married in Mexico City, Mexico, the question is
whether their marriage was valid under the laws of Mexico City, Mexico, such that
California would recognize it as valid.
Under Mexican law, parties must go through a civil ceremony to validate a marriage.
See POMS PR 05630.238 (Mexico is a civil law marriage country). The Civil Code of Mexico City provides that, generally, the civil status of individuals
may only be proven with certificates and records kept by the Mexico City Civil Registry. A marriage certificate issued by the Mexico City Civil Registry is prima facie evidence that the couple was married before a Civil Registry official. Mexico City, Mexico, began recognizing same-sex marriages effective March 4, 2010. As federal courts have recognized, the Supreme Court of Mexico ruled that same-sex
marriages performed in Mexico City must be recognized nationwide. Avendano-Hernandez v. Lynch, 800 F.3d 1072, 1080 (9th Cir. 2015); Bringas-Rodriguez v. Sessions, 850 F.3d 1051, 1075 (9th Cir. 2017); Guzman-Hernandez v. U.S. Atty. Gen., 611 F. App'x 956, 960–61 (11th Cir. 2015).
Claimant and the DWE registered their marriage with the Civil Register in Mexico City,
Mexico, and presented a marriage certificate issued by the Mexico City Civil Registry
as proof of their marriage. In addition, their same-sex marriage was valid under the law of Mexico City, Mexico.
Thus, California would recognize the validity of the marriage. See, e.g., POMS PR 05820.006, PR 14-163 Validity of Same-Sex Marriage, September 3, 2014 (California will recognize a same-sex marriage that occurred in
Spain if the marriage was valid under Spanish law). Claimant is therefore eligible
for the LSDP on the DWE’s account.
For the purpose of establishing eligibility to the LSDP, Claimant has established
that she was married to the DWE.