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Obama Administration expands federal benefits for married same-sex couples

Friday, June 20, 2014
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AP

AP

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said it would start drafting rules making clear that the Family and Medical Leave Act applies to same-sex couples, ensuring that gay and lesbian workers can take unpaid leave to care for a sick spouse.

Attorney General Eric Holder, in a memo to Obama, said the Justice Department has completed its government-wide push to carry out the high court’s 2013 ruling in United States v. Windsor that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, enabling the federal government to start granting benefits to married same-sex couples. Holder said the impact of that court decision “cannot be overstated.”

At the same time, Holder urged Congress to adopt legislation that Democratic lawmakers have proposed that let the VA and Social Security extend benefits to married couples living in non-gay marriage states. Obama was lending his support to those efforts in Congress, the White House said.

“The fact that they’re endorsing our legislation will give it a boost,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who wrote the bill altering the state-of-residence requirement for VA benefits.

But opponents of gay marriage argued that the Obama administration is misinterpreting the court’s decision by using state of residence as the standard for determining which marriages Washington will recognize.

“This clearly goes beyond the executive branch’s authority,” said Peter Sprigg of Family Research Council. “The federal government should not put the thumb on the scale in terms of how states define marriage.”

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The administrative steps mark the latest attempt by Obama to promote social acceptance for gays and lesbians and to ensure they and their relationships enjoy equal treatment under the law.

In addition to successfully pushing to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military, the Obama administration stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act years before the Supreme Court took it up.

And last week, Obama took another step demanded by gay rights advocates when he announced he will sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

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