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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The North Carolina National Guard will begin recognizing same-sex marriages.

Lt. Col. Maury A. Williams said Monday the guard will abide by U.S. Department of Defense orders extending federal benefits to the same-sex spouses of uniformed service members. Williams said couples who wed in states where same-sex marriage is legal could begin applying for benefits immediately.

The announcement comes a week after National Guard officials in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana announced they will refuse to follow the Pentagon's policy. All three states have gay-marriage bans and are led by socially conservative Republican governors.

The change comes two months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal law forbidding recognition of same-sex unions. North Carolina voters approved a Constitutional amendment in 2012 limiting marriage to a man and a woman.

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