Newspaper article International New York Times

Obama Set to Extend Benefits for Gay Couples ; Federal Agencies to Treat All Marriages Equally, Regardless of Gender

Newspaper article International New York Times

Obama Set to Extend Benefits for Gay Couples ; Federal Agencies to Treat All Marriages Equally, Regardless of Gender

Article excerpt

After decades of blocking gay married couples from receiving the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts, most federal agencies will now treat married couples alike, regardless of gender.

The federal government on Friday was to extend a wide range of marriage benefits to same-sex couples, making good on a promise by President Obama after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last year.

After decades of blocking gay married couples from receiving the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts, most federal agencies will now treat married couples alike, regardless of gender. The changes in regulations across the federal government were set to be announced Friday.

The action is important, officials said, because of differences in how states treat same-sex marriage. Without the regulatory changes, gay couples could be blocked from receiving federal benefits in states that do not recognize their marriages. Same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

"In almost all instances, federal benefits and obligations for same-sex married couples will be provided, regardless of where the couple lives," a White House official said late Thursday before the agencies' formal announcements.

Under the changes, same-sex spouses of Defense Department employees will receive all the benefits of heterosexual husbands and wives. Federal immigration law will apply equally to gay and straight married couples. The Internal Revenue Service will recognize the marriages of all gay couples. …

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