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Senate Takes Stand for Same-Sex Couples

Senate Takes Stand for Same-Sex Couples


Some couples are losing out on Social Security and Veterans' benefits because they live in a state that doesn't recognize their union; a Senate vote, while not binding, marks an attempt to right that wrong.

The U.S. Senate wants to make sure married same-sex couples have access to all the federal benefits of marriage, even if they live in a state that doesn't recognize their union.

In a voice vote Wednesday night, senators approved a motion calling on colleagues working out a budget deal with the House to include language assuring that "all legally married same-sex spouses have equal access to the Social Security and veterans' benefits they have earned and receive equal treatment under the law pursuant to the Constitution," Politico reports.

The motion, however, is not binding, and the more conservative House is unlikely to adopt it, notes Politico. But the news site points out that no senator sought a roll-call vote on the matter, signaling that even the most right-wing senators don't want to go on record as opposing these benefits.

The 2013 Supreme Court decision in Windsor v. United States allowed the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages, and most agencies did so right away. But the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs "are tripped up by old wording in their authorizing statutes," Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, the motion's sponsor, said on the Senate floor Wednesday. That wording bases eligibility for marriage-related benefits on a couple's state of residence, not the state where they were married.

Whether or not the House agrees to the new wording in the budget deal, the issue could be moot in a matter of months. The Supreme Court is to hear a marriage equality case April 28 and is expected to rule by the end of its term in late June, potentially bringing marriage rights and recognition to every state.

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