South Dakota woman seeks state survivor benefits after wife’s death

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A woman is asking South Dakota’s Supreme Court to rule that she’s eligible for state retirement system survivor benefits after her wife, a former Rapid City police captain, died of cancer.

Justices hear arguments Tuesday in the appeal of Debra Anderson. She was denied benefits because she and former Capt. Deb Cady weren’t married before Cady retired.

The retirement system argues that Anderson doesn’t meet the definition of a spouse in state law, which says the spouse must be married to a system member before retirement to be eligible for survivor benefits.

Cady retired in 2012 because of breast cancer. Anderson and Cady were a couple at that time but weren’t married because it wasn’t legal at the time.

They married in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide. Cady died two years later.

Anderson’s attorney, James Leach, says Anderson is entitled to the benefits because South Dakota’s prohibition against same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

Associated Press

Associated Press

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