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Gay couples to receive federal benefits

Supreme Court Voting Rights
Attorney General Eric Holder (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Friday that federal employees who have legally married a spouse of the same sex are eligible for federal benefits — an expected move resulting from the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.

Holder called his announcement a "historic step toward equality for all American families."

"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," he said.

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

Holder added that the Justice Department will continue to coordinate with other federal agencies "to implement this ruling as swiftly and smoothly as possible."

The Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling on Wednesday prohibits the federal government from denying benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married in the 12 states, as well as the District of Columbia, that recognize same-sex marriage.

The administration's decision to adhere to the ruling came as no surprise, as it had stopped defending the law in 2011.