PR 05820: State Recognition of Foreign Same-Sex Marriages
TN 8 (02-18)
A. PR-15-174 Validity of French Same-sex Marriage for Entitlement to Husband’s Insurance Benefits – Florida
Date: July 30, 2015
The number holder (NH) and Claimant, who entered into a same-sex marriage in France, are validly married under Florida law for purposes of determining Claimant’s entitlement to Title II insurance benefits as NH’s spouse.
You asked whether the number holder (NH) and Claimant, who entered into a same-sex marriage in France, are validly married under Florida law for purposes of determining Claimant’s entitlement to Title II insurance benefits as NH’s spouse.
Claimant is validly married to NH under Florida law for purposes of determining Claimant’s entitlement to Title II insurance benefits as the NH’s spouse.
According to the information provided, M~ (Claimant) married C~ (NH), on August XX, 2013, in A~, France. Both Claimant and NH are male. NH currently receives old-age insurance benefits. On November XX, 2014, Claimant applied for husband’s insurance benefits (HIB) on NH’s earnings record. Claimant and NH lived in Florida when Claimant filed his HIB application.
A claimant may be eligible for HIB if he is the husband of an individual entitled to old-age insurance benefits. See Social Security Act (Act) § 202(c)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.330(a) (2015).1 A claimant may qualify as the husband of a living insured individual if the claimant is validly married to the insured individual under the laws of the State where the insured individual was domiciled at the time of the claimant’s application. See Act § 216(b), (f), (h)(1)(A)(i); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.344, 404.345; see also Program Operations Manual System (POMS) GN 00210.006(B) (stating SSA opinions regarding validity of foreign same-sex marriages look to laws of the State of NH’s domicile and must address whether marriage would be recognized as valid by the courts of the State of NH’s domicile). NH lived in Florida when Claimant applied for HIB on NH’s earnings record. Therefore, we look to Florida law to determine if Claimant and NH are validly married.
Florida generally approves of the act of marriage, regardless of where it occurs, and presumes a marriage is valid. See Johnson v. Lincoln Square Properties, Inc., 571 So. 2d 541, 542 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1990); Guelman v. De Guelman, 453 So. 2d 1159, 1160 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1984). In addition, “[i]t is presumed that an official performing a marriage service, whether in a foreign or domestic jurisdiction would not have performed the service if there was any known impediment to the marriage.” Guelman, 453 So. 2d at 1160. Furthermore, “all presumptions necessary to make a marriage valid, including the capacity to contract, attach upon proof of a ceremonial marriage and cohabitation by the parties under the belief that they were lawfully married.” Anderson v. Anderson, 577 So. 2d 658, 660 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1991).
Florida courts generally determine the validity of a marriage based on the laws of the place where the purported marriage occurred. See Johnson, 571 So. 2d at 542; see also POMS GN 00305.005(B)(1) (“The law of the place where a marriage occurred ordinarily determines the validity of a marriage. If the marriage is valid in that jurisdiction, it is usually held valid in other places.”). “The law in Florida on this point is consistent with the general rule recognized in other jurisdictions that the validity of a marriage is to be determined by the law of the jurisdiction where the marriage was entered into.” Anderson, 577 So. 2d at 660.
Florida previously denied recognition to same-sex marriages due to statutory and State Constitutional provisions, but began recognizing same-sex marriages on January 5, 2015. See POMS GN 00210.003(A); POMS PR 05825.011. Additionally, on June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court held that same-sex couples must be permitted to marry in all states. See Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ---, 2015 WL 2473451, at *19 (2015). The Court also held that State laws prohibiting recognition of valid same-sex marriages were invalid. Id. The Court reasoned that, having required all States to allow same-sex couples to marry, “[i]t follows that the Court also must hold—and it now does hold—that there is no lawful basis for a State to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State on the ground of its same-sex character.” Id. at *23.
In this case, Claimant and NH provided a marriage certificate issued in A~, France in August 2013. France legalized same-sex marriage as of May 17, 2013, and the French government issued administrative instructions that permitted local authorities to celebrate same-sex marriages starting on May 29, 2013. See Letter from Nicolas Boring, Foreign Law Specialist, Law Library of Cong. Global Legal Research Ctr. to Karen Aviles, Office of the Gen. Counsel, Soc. Sec. Admin. (Jan. 15, 2015) (attached). The marriage certificate on its face (per the translation) and the other information provided do not indicate the marriage certificate violates French law. See Anderson, 577 So. 2d at 660; Guelman, 453 So. 2d at 1160. Although Obergefell did not specifically address whether States must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other countries, Florida has a history of recognizing valid foreign marriages. See, e.g., Guelman, 453 So. 2d at 1160 (recognizing Bolivian marriage). Because the marriage between Claimant and NH is valid and Florida recognizes valid marriages from foreign jurisdictions and because Florida must now allow and recognize same-sex marriages, Florida would have no legal basis on which to refuse to recognize a valid French same-sex marriage. Therefore, we conclude Florida courts would recognize Claimant and NH’s French same-sex marriage as valid under current Florida law.
Claimant is validly married to NH under Florida law for purposes of determining Claimant’s entitlement to HIB on NH’s earnings record.
Mary Ann Sloan
Regional Chief Counsel
By: Natalie Liem
All references to the Code of Federal Regulations are to the 2015 version.