South Dakota Supreme Court Denies Survivor Benefits To Same-Sex Spouse


In Anderson v. South Dakota Retirement System, the South Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Debra Lee Anderson’s application for survivor spouse benefits under Deborah Cady’s state retirement plan, holding that Anderson was not entitled to receive survivor benefits.

Anderson and Cady both worked for the Rapid City Police Department. In 2012, Cady retired from the department. In 2015, Anderson and Cady married. In 2017, Cady died. Anderson applied for survivor spouse benefits, but the state retirement system denied the application because Anderson and Cady were not married at the time of Cady’s retirement and because Anderson did not meet the definition of a “spouse” under S.D. Codified Laws 3-12-47(80).

The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's decision holding (1) under the relevant statutes, Anderson could not meet the definition of “spouse” and therefore was not entitled to Cady’s survivor benefits under South Dakota law; and (2) there was no discrimination on the basis of Anderson’s gender or sexual orientation.