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Senators back benefits for same-sex couples

Senators approved a budget amendment Thursday that would give married same-sex couples access to Social Security and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.

Senators voted 57-43 on the amendment, offered by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

Eleven Republican senators voted with Democrats in support of the amendment, including Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Rob Portman (Ohio), each of whom are up for reelection in 2016.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) also voted for the amendment.

The measure backs equal treatment for "legally married same-sex spouses," giving them access to Social Security and VA benefits no matter what state that they live in.

"All legally married same-sex couples deserve equal treatment under the law regardless of where they live, but right now eligibility for spousal benefits provided under the Social Security Act and by the Department of Veterans Administration is determined by a residence standard," Schatz said. "That means that legally married same-sex couples who move to a state that doesn't recognize same-sex marriage could be denied Social Security and veterans' survivor benefits."

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said a voice vote on Schatz's amendment was "not going to be possible" and urged his colleagues to vote "no."

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