Obama Administration Extends Rights Of Gay Couples

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Several U.S. agencies announced rules on Friday that would grant new rights to same-sex couples throughout the United States, including survivor benefits and leave from work to care for a sick partner.

Obama Administration Extends Rights Of Gay Couples

The rules are being issued one year after the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision striking down a ban on national recognition of same-sex marriage.

At the request of President Barack Obama, the agencies have reviewed more than 1,0000 federal policies linked to marriage that could be changed to reflect the court's decision and extend rights to gay couples even in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Friday that agencies across the federal government have successfully implemented the Supreme Court's decision to the "greatest extent possible under the law."

"As additional issues arise, we will continue to work together to uphold this Administration's fundamental commitment to equal treatment for all Americans, and to extend this fundamental equality to all Americans," Holder said in a statement.

The Department of Labor issued a proposal extending the rights given to married couples under the Family Medical Leave Act to gay couples living in states where same-sex marriage is not recognized.

The Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees of public and large private organizations to take unpaid, job-protected leave for family and medical purposes, such as caring for a sick spouse.

The Justice Department also announced changes to policy at two agencies, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration, which are currently blocked by Congress from recognizing the rights of same-sex couples residing in states where their marriage is not recognized.

The VA secretary will now allow any individual in a committed relationship with a veteran to be buried in a national cemetery. In addition, survivor benefits will be given to same-sex partners as they would to a spouse living in the same state, per direction of the Social Security Administration.

Obama on Tuesday said he would sign an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation. But he also told gay rights activists they need to keep up the pressure on Congress to pass a broader law.

In February, Holder announced widespread changes within the Justice Department to benefit same-sex married couples, such as recognizing a legal right for them not to testify against each other in civil and criminal cases.

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