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Pentagon to extend benefits to same-sex military couples — including 10 days of marriage leave

The U.S. Department of Defense is set to announce Wednesday that same-sex spouses of military service members will become eligible for a range of federal benefits as early as September, a senior official told NBC News.

The Pentagon plans to extend to legally married same-sex couples the same privileges and programs that are provided to legally married heterosexual couples, including benefits tied to health care and housing, the official said.

In addition, the official said that service members who are stationed in one of the 37 states where same-sex marriage is illegal will be offered up to 10 days of leave so they can travel to one of the 13 states, plus the District of Columbia, that grant same-sex marriage licenses.

The Defense Department had earlier planned to permit same-sex spouses of military members to sign a declaration form in order to receive limited benefits, such as access to military stores and certain welfare programs, according to The Associated Press.

However, the recent Supreme Court decision striking down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, which therefore extended federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples, obviates the need for the earlier plan.

The benefits could be distributed as early as September 3, according to the official.