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Federal government to extend marriage benefits to gay couples

Mark Pelekakis (R) and his husband Doug West kiss each other as they stand outside the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York, June 26, 2015, immediately following the announcement that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry in a historic triumph for the American gay rights movement.

Mike Segar/Reuters

WASHINGTON --Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the government will make federal marriage benefits available to same-sex couples following a Supreme Court decision last month that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

She says the Justice Department will work to make sure that all federal benefits will be available equally to married couples across the country.

She says programs for veterans and the elderly and disabled will now cover same-sex marriages.

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision last month in a case called Obergefell v. Hodges that the equal protection clause in the 14th amendment to the Constitution grants gay couples the right to marry.

"Following the Supreme Court's historic decision in Obergefell that every couple has the same right to participate in the institution of marriage, whether the partners are of the same-sex or opposite sexes, I directed Justice Department staff to work with the agencies to ensure that the ruling be given full effect across the federal government," Lynch said in a statement. "Thanks to their leadership and the quick work of the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs, today I am proud to announce that the critical programs for veterans and elderly and disabled Americans, which previously could not give effect to the marriages of couples living in states that did not recognize those marriages, will now provide federal recognition for all marriages nationwide. The agencies are currently working towards providing guidance to implement this change in law."