This bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Rep. Richard L. Hanna (R-NY), and Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) as H.R.238 on January 9, 2015. The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) as S. 23 on January 6, 2015.


This bill redefines “widow” and “widower” in federal copyright law to include surviving spouses in all legal marriages valid at time of death for the purpose of transferring copyrights following an author’s death. Currently, federal copyright law only recognizes spouses in marriages valid in the author’s place of residence at the time of death as “widows” and “widowers.” 

PFLAG Talking Points

  • LGBTQ people should not face the added burden of not receiving copyrights upon the death of their same-sex spouse. The death of a spouse is extremely trying on a person, and this bill alleviates one possible burden LGBTQ people may face in the instance of their spouse’s death.
  • LGBTQ authors deserve to have their work preserved properly under the law. This bill ensures an LGBTQ author’s work is transferred to their spouse or next of kin under federal copyright law.
  • All legal same-sex marriages should be recognized regardless of state of residence. This bill does not define “surviving spouse” based on state of residence, including all legally married same-sex couples.