Federal judge rules that Arizona gay widower is entitled to federal spousal benefits
LGBT rainbow flag and U.S. flag [AFP]

Los Angeles (AFP) - A U.S. judge ruled Friday that a gay widower is entitled to federal death benefits in Arizona despite the western state's ban on same-sex marriages.

Fred McQuire married his partner of 45 years, George Martinez, in neighboring California this summer, shortly before Martinez -- like him, a Vietnam-era veteran -- died in August.

However, because their home state of Arizona does not recognize gay marriages, McQuire was unable to describe Martinez as "married" on the death certificate and so to receive social security benefits due to spouses.

On Friday, judge John Sedwick ordered Arizona authorities to "promptly prepare, issue and accept a death certificate for (Martinez) which records his marital status as 'married' and his surviving spouse as Fred McQuire."

He noted that McQuire's income would rise from $1,300 to $4,000 per month because of the ruling, which would let him succeed to Martinez's "more substantial social security and veteran's benefits."

McQuire is in poor health and unable to work, he noted.

"George will be very proud of me being here," McQuire was quoted by the Arizona Republic newspaper website as saying.

"I need to let people know I was married. George was my life partner for over 40 years. We loved each other, and he would love to have my name on his death certificate."

The ruling only applies to the McQuire-Martinez case, and does not overturn Arizona's gay marriage ban.

Nevertheless the judge made clear his view that the ban may not survive, pointing to a series of court judgments in other US states which have ruled that a gay marriage ban is unconstitutional.

"Only a Nevada district court and two Louisiana district courts have upheld state bans. None of these decisions are persuasive," the judge wrote.

A landmark Supreme Court decision in June last year found that couples in same-sex marriages were entitled to the same benefits and protections as their heterosexual counterparts.

However, marriage laws are governed by individual U.S. states, some 30 of which still ban same-sex weddings.

[Image: LGBT rainbow flag and U.S. flag. By Justin Sullivan for Agence France-Presse]