Feds Extend Benefits to Legislative Employees in Legal Same-Sex Marriages

ABC News' Jeffrey Cook reports:

The U.S. government will now begin to extend federal benefits to all legislative employees legally married to same-sex spouses, as a result of last month's Supreme Court ruling striking down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Health and life insurance benefits are now extended to legally married same-sex couples, in addition to the children and stepchildren of those federal employees and annuitants, according to an email sent by the chief administrative officer of the House to all congressional employees today.

Legislative employees living in the 13 states (plus the District of Columbia) that recognize same-sex marriages are eligible.

A similar letter was sent to Senate employee's last week.

The action stems from the Supreme Court's decision June 26 that a section of DOMA denying benefits to federal employees with spouses of the same sex is unconstitutional.

Federal employees have until Aug. 26, 2013, to apply for or update their benefits.

Until the Supreme Court's ruling, the term "marriage" was only applicable to a legal union between a man and a woman. Since DOMA was enacted in 1996, the federal government has been prohibited from extending the same benefits to same-sex unions as it had provided to those of the opposite sex.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the court's opinion repealing Section 3 of DOMA in the 5-4 decision.

"DOMA violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the federal government," Kennedy wrote for the majority. "Under DOMA same-sex couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways."

Late last month, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also welcomed the ruling and said the Pentagon will begin extending the benefits as soon as possible.

"Today's ruling helps ensure that all men and women who serve this country can be treated fairly and equally," Hagel said June 26. "With the full dignity and respect they so richly deserve."

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