University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Tevyaw v. Colvin PB-RI-0001
Docket / Court 1:14-cv-00425 ( D.R.I. )
State/Territory Rhode Island
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection Same-Sex Marriage
Attorney Organization GLAD
Case Summary
On September 29, 2014, the surviving widow of a same-sex marriage filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island against the Social Security Administration (SSA). The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, asked the court to declare that several SSA regulations are ... read more >
On September 29, 2014, the surviving widow of a same-sex marriage filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island against the Social Security Administration (SSA). The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, asked the court to declare that several SSA regulations are invalid and contrary to the governing Social Security statutes, affirm that the plaintiff meets the marriage requirements, declare that a person previously married to someone of the same sex meets the marriage requirements for Social Security Survivor benefits, so long as the courts of the state the individual resides in would find that the marriage valid, declare that the plaintiffs marriage would have been recognized by Rhode Island, enjoin the defendant to process the plaintiff's application for widow's and lump sum death benefits, and to award the plaintiffs any attorney's fees or costs of suit.

At the time of her wife's death, plaintiff had been in a same-sex marriage that was formalized in Massachusetts, which allowed same-sex marriage. The plaintiff claimed that on January 17, 2012, the SSA informed her that her marriage did not meet the marriage requirements, and denied her application for benefits. The SSA decision was partially due to the reasoning that the plaintiff's marriage was never a valid marriage under Rhode Island State law. The plaintiff alleged that the SSA was violating the rights guaranteed to her by the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Constitution by discriminating on the basis of sex and refusing to recognize same-sex marriages that occurred out-of-state. She further claimed that though Rhode Island has not legalized same-sex marriage, it still recognized marriages validly performed in other states.

As of October 7, 2014, the case was still ongoing.

Megan Dolan - 10/07/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Benefit Source
Social Security Retirement and Death Benefit
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Full faith and credit
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Sex discrimination
Sexual orientatation
General
Disparate Impact
Gay/lesbian/transgender
Marriage
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Bivens
Defendant(s) Social Security Administration
Plaintiff Description The plaintiff is the surviving widow of a same-sex marriage who was denied widow's insurance and lump sum death benefits.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations GLAD
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Limited Partnership
http://www.limitedpartnershipmovie.com/
By: Thomas G. Miller
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  United States Government says L.A. Gay Couple‚Äôs 1975 Marriage is Valid
The Pride L.A.
Written: Jun. 07, 2016
By: Troy Masters
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:14−cv−00425 (D.R.I.) 09/29/2014
PB-RI-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint For Declaratory, Injunctive, and Other Relief 09/29/2014
PB-RI-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Judges Smith, William E. (D.R.I.)
PB-RI-0001-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bonauto, Mary L. (Massachusetts)
PB-RI-0001-0001
Daly, Michael J. (Rhode Island)
PB-RI-0001-0001 | PB-RI-0001-9000
Wu, Janson (Massachusetts)
PB-RI-0001-0001
Defendant's Lawyers None on record
Other Lawyers None on record

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