Labor Department updates guidelines to extend benefits to same-sex spouses

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“This is one of many steps the Department will be taking over the coming months to implement the Supreme Court’s decision," Labor Secretary Tom Perez said in an email to staff.

He added, "As the President directed, the Department of Labor has begun to coordinate with other federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, to implement this ruling as swiftly and smoothly as possible. I have directed Agency Heads within the Department to look for every opportunity to ensure that we are implementing this decision in a way that provides the maximum protection for workers and their families.”

The June 5-4 Supreme Court ruling effectively enabled the federal government to recognize marriages between gay and lesbian couples.

In response, federal agencies have begun changing the more than 1,000 laws that take marital status into account, including rules for taxes, insurance, military compensation and other benefits.

Same-sex spouses of federal workers have been able to take advantage of their partner’s health insurance and retirement benefits since the Office of Personnel Management announced a change in its internal guidance two days after the court’s ruling. 

Last week, the Social Security Administration announced that it had begun paying out retirement benefits to people in same-sex marriages. 

Gay rights advocates have cheered the Obama administration’s efforts to change regulations to comply with the court's decision.

In a statement on Monday, the president of the anti-discrimination organization Freedom to Work, Tico Almeida, said the group was “thrilled” about the Labor Department guidance.

“Given the incredible passion and intellect that Secretary Perez brings to these important issues, we remain hopeful that he will continue to push to expand LGBT career opportunity and persuade the Obama White House to join the Labor Department in standing on the right side of history on LGBT workplace issues,” he said.