With married gay couples now able to access federal benefits as a result of the Supreme Court's DOMA decision, focus initially turned to whether or not same-sex couples in civil unions would be given similar concessions as well. Word from the White House today, however, appears to have nixed any hope that those couples would have access to federal protections. ThinkProgress reports:
The White House Office of Personnel Management released a series of memos dealing with different benefits for federal employees and explicitly made clear that only same-sex couples who are legally married can access them – not those in civil unions. Some benefits for domestic partnerships will remain intact, but same-sex couples in such partnerships or in civil unions "will remain ineligible for most Federal benefits programs.
Currently, four states continue to offer civil unions in place of marriage equality: Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, and New Jersey. When faced with the "civil union vs. marriage" debate in those state legislatures, many lawmakers argued that civil unions would be satisfactory and provide the same benefits, just without the "marriage" label. With the inequalities of civil unions now offical on the federal level, it appears LGBT allies in those states will be pushing for full marriage equality in the near future. ThinkProgress notes that this is particularly true in New Jersey, where the state Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples deserve complete equality, so civil unions offered there now appear to be a violation of the state's constitution.