Federal government begins issuing benefits to married gay couples

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A memo on marriage benefits for married same-sex couples.

The U.S. government began issuing employee benefits to married same-sex couples on June 28, the same day that gay marriages resumed in California after years of waiting.

Both developments resulted from the historic Supreme Court decisions on June 27 that overturned a key provision in the Defense of Marriage Act and left in place a trial court ruling overturning California’s Proposition 8.

The president, on June 28, issued a statement: “Today my Administration announced that, for the first time in history, we will be making important federal employee benefits, including health care and retirement benefits, available to eligible married gay and lesbian couples and their families.

“This is a critical first step toward implementing this week’s landmark Supreme Court decision declaring that all married couples – gay and straight – should be treated equally under federal law. Thousands of gays and lesbians serve our country every day in the federal government. They, and their spouses and children, deserve the same respect and protection as every other family.

"Under the leadership of Attorney General Holder, we will continue to move as quickly as possible to fully implement the Court's decision.”

Attorney General Eric Holder also issued a statement: “Today’s announcement represents a historic step toward equality for all American families. The Supreme Court ruled this week that Americans in same-sex marriages are entitled to equal protection and equal treatment under the law. By extending health insurance and other important benefits to federal employees and their families, regardless of whether they are in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages, the Obama Administration is making real the promise of this important decision.”

“These initial changes in federal benefits will make a meaningful, positive difference in the lives of many. But this is only the beginning. As the president directed, the Department of Justice will continue to coordinate with other federal agencies to implement this ruling as swiftly and smoothly as possible. I look forward to sharing additional information as it becomes available.  We will never stop fighting to ensure equality, opportunity, and – above all – justice for everyone in this country.”

Meanwhile, in California, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted its stay and allowed a U.S. district court judge’s ruling overturning Prop 8 to take effect. That meant same-sex marriages could resume immediately in the nation’s most populous state.

Among the first to city halls to wed were the plaintiffs in the case.

“After four and a half long and painful years, justice for committed gay and lesbian couples has finally been delivered,” said Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign. “In California, a time of struggle and indignity are over, and love, justice and freedom begin anew. And now, no election, no judge – no one – can take this basic right away. At long last, marriage has finally returned to the most populous state in the nation.”