SSR 67-56: SECTION 216(h)(1)(A). -- MARITAL RELATIONSHIP -- APPLICABILITY OF STATE ANTIMISCEGENATION STATUTE
20 CFR 404.1101
- Where the interracial marriage of a worker and a claimant for wife's insurance benefits, although otherwise valid, would be held void under a State antimiscegenation statute held, since any State statute which invalidates a marriage solely on the grounds of a racial classification is unconstitutional and void, such statute can have no effect in determining the validity of a marital relationship under the Social Security Act; accordingly, the claimant may be found to have the status of wife of the worker under section 216(h)(1)(A) of the Act for purposes of entitlement to wife's insurance benefits.
A, a fully insured white man, and B, an Indian woman, filed applications in April 1967 for old-age and wife's insurance benefits respectively based on A's earnings record. They submitted documents showing that A was born in April 1905; that B was born in May 1901; and that they were married in south Carolina in February 1963. They still live in South Carolina.
A became entitled to old-age insurance benefits beginning with April 1967.
In order to qualify for and become entitled to wife's insurance benefits B must, among other requirements all of which she met, be the wife of the worker A as defined in section 216(h)(1) of the Social Security Act. The question at issue is whether B is A's wife for purpose of payment of wife's insurance benefits.
Section 216(h)(1)(A) of the Act provides that a woman is the wife of a worker for purposes of entitlement to wife's insurance benefits if the courts of the State in which the worker is domiciled at the time she files her application would find that either (1) she and the worker were validly married at that time or (2) she would have the same status as a wife for purposes of distribution of his intestate personal property.
At the time B filed her application, South Carolina was the State of A's domicile; therefore, in determining whether B has the status of A's wife for purposes of entitlement to wife's insurance benefits, it must be determined whether the marriage of A and B is valid under the laws of the State of South Carolina.
Under South Carolina law, marriage between a white person and an Indian, a half-breed, or a mestizo is prohibited and declared utterly null and void. Section 20-7, code of Laws of South Carolina, 1962. Under this South Carolina statute the marriage of A and B is void and B could not share in A's interstate personal property as a wife.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 12, 1967, in the case of Loving v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, unequivocally declared that any State statute which invalidates a marriage solely on the grounds of a racial classification is unconstitutional and void. Specifically, the Supreme Court declared:
- There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause.
- [Antimiscegenation status] also deprive [the parties to such marriage] of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. the freedom to marry has always been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.
- Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man" fundamental to our very existence and survival * * *. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classification embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all of the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.
The Loving decision must be applied where an antimiscegenation statute is involved. B meets all other requirements for a valid marriage under the laws of the State of South Carolina and meets all other requirements for entitlement to wife's insurance benefits. Accordingly, it is held that B has the status of A's wife under section 216(h)(1)(A) of the Act and is entitled to the wife's insurance benefits for which she filed application.