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Process begins to allow federal benefits for same-sex spouses

By Carol Cratty, CNN
June 30, 2013 -- Updated 1654 GMT (0054 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A government memo tells agencies that same-sex spouses can get benefits
  • The move follows Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling
  • The court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act
  • DOMA denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples

Washington (CNN) -- The federal government took an important step on Friday to allow same-sex married couples to begin receiving the same federal benefits that heterosexual couples get. The move affects federal workers and their families.

The Office of Personnel Management sent a memorandum to various federal agencies informing them that same-sex spouses are now eligible for health insurance, life insurance and retirement coverage. The children of such couples also will be able to participate in many of the programs.

The move follows Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

According to the OPM memo, federal employees have 60 days -- until August 26 -- to decide whether to make immediate changes in their benefits. They can also make changes during the next open-enrollment period.

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Attorney General Eric Holder called the move "a historic step toward equality for all American families."

"These initial changes in federal benefits will make a meaningful, positive difference in the lives of many," said Holder.

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