Memo To Senate Staff In Same-Sex Marriages: You're Now Treated Like Everybody Else

WASHINGTON -- Things just got a little bit easier for Senate staffers in same-sex marriages.

On Tuesday, a mass email went out to thousands of Senate employees giving details on how those in legal same-sex marriages can now extend their federal benefits to their spouses and any stepchildren. Senate employees were notified earlier this month that they would soon be able to extend benefits to their families, thanks to the Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in late June.

The new three-page document details how Senate employees in legal same-sex marriages can begin enrolling to extend benefits through August 26, 2013. Health benefits, life insurance, dental/vision coverage, long-term care, Flexible Spending Accounts and retirement benefits are now available to the spouses of any Senate staffer in a legal same-sex marriage, regardless of the employee's state of residency.

If someone gets legally married to a same-sex partner in the future, that will "be treated as a Qualified Life Event (QLE) in the same manner as opposite-sex marriages, regardless of an employee's state of residency," the document reads.

The memo clarifies that same-sex couples in civil unions or other forms of domestic partnerships are ineligible for most federal benefits programs.

A House Democratic aide said Tuesday afternoon that the House is following the same guidelines as the Senate for rolling out extended federal benefits. Last week, the Chief Administrative Officer of the House sent an email to House chiefs of staff outlining the steps House staffers in same-sex marriages should take to cover their families.

Gay marriage is currently legal in 13 states. It's also legal in the District of Columbia, which means there's likely a decent number of Capitol Hill staffers who will, for the first time, be able to extend benefits to their families.

This story was updated to clarify how the House is proceeding with extending federal benefits to staff in same-sex marriages.



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