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Government Extending Federal Benefits To All Married Same-Sex Couples

Attorney General Loretta Lynch, seen at a May news conference at the Justice Department, announced the change in federal marriage benefits on Thursday.
Cliff Owen

The government said Thursday it will make federal marriage benefits available to all same-sex couples.

The Obama administration had previously extended most federal benefits to married same-sex couples. But the federal government could not distribute Social Security and VA benefits to couples living in states where such marriages were prohibited.

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that gays and lesbians in every state have a right to be married, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says programs for veterans, the elderly and disabled will also provide benefits to all married same-sex couples.

The Washington Post reports the government is working out the details about how the changes will be implemented:

"Lynch's announcement came a little more than a year after her predecessor, Eric H. Holder Jr., reacted to a previous Supreme Court ruling on marriage by saying that benefits would be provided based on where the marriages took place. In other words, if a couple was married in a state that allowed same-sex marriage but later moved to a state where it was not, they could still obtain those federal benefits.

"For same-sex couples, that meant being recognized when it came to filing federal taxes, receiving health insurance and retirement benefits when married to a federal employee and getting spousal benefits when married to a member of the armed forces."

But the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs were required to distribute their benefits based on where the couples lived.

Lynch says the Justice Department "will continue to work across the administration to fulfill our commitment to equal treatment for all Americans, including equal access to the benefits of marriage that the [ Obergefell v. Hodges] decision guarantees."

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NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.
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