Federal government to expand recognition of same-sex marriage

Eric Holder

Eric Holder

NEW YORK — The U.S. government will recognize same-sex marriages as equal to traditional marriages in all federal matters, including in U.S. courts, bankruptcies, prison visits and survivor benefits, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Saturday.

The expansion of such federal recognition will include 34 states where same-sex marriage isn’t legal, but the new federal benefits being extended to those states will apply only where the U.S. government has jurisdiction, Holder said.

For example, a same-sex couple legally married in Massachusetts can now have their federal bankruptcy proceeding recognized in Alabama, even though it doesn’t allow same-sex marriages. In the past, the U.S. government could challenge the couple’s joint bankruptcy because Alabama doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

Holder’s announcement was revealed in an advance copy of a speech he will deliver at the Human Rights Campaign’s New York City gala Saturday night.

Holder plans to announce that the Justice Department will issue a memo Monday that recognizes same-sex marriages “to the greatest extent possible under the law.”

The move affects how millions of Americans interact with their federal government, including bankruptcy cases, prison visitation rights, survivor benefits for police officers and firefighters killed on the job, and the legal right to refuse to testify to incriminate a spouse.

The Human Rights Campaign, an advocate of gay rights, lauded Holder for his support of same sex marriage in a recent speech to the Swedish parliament.

In an excerpt of his speech provided in advance, Holder compared his work for the gay rights cause to the 1960s civil rights struggle and then- Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s support for equality.

“This means that, in every courthouse, in every proceeding, and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States — they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections and rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law,” Holder said of his initiative.

Under the new policy, the Justice Department will recognize that same-sex spouses of individuals involved in civil and criminal cases should have the same legal rights as all other married couples — including the right to decline to give testimony that might incriminate their spouses.

Also, the government won’t contest same-sex married couples their rights in states where previously prosecutors could argue that the marriage is not recognized in the state where the couple lives, Holder said.

Couples in same-sex marriages will be allowed to file for bankruptcy as a couple. This ensures alimony and domestic support debts aren’t discharged in bankruptcy cases. Federal inmates with same-sex spouses will now have full visitation, compassionate release and other benefits.

The Justice Department’s policy change will extend benefits to same-sex couples who benefit from federal programs such as the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, Radiation Exposure Compensation program and to the families of police officers and firefighters who receive benefits from the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program.

“Just like during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the stakes involved in this generation’s struggle for LGBT equality could not be higher,” Holder said. “As attorney general, I will not let this Department be simply a bystander during this important moment in history.”

In a statement, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said that “this landmark announcement will change the lives of countless committed gay and lesbian couples for the better.

“While the immediate effect of these policy decisions is that all married gay couples will be treated equally under the law, the long-term effects are more profound. Today, our nation moves closer toward its ideals of equality and fairness for all,” Griffin said.

8 comments

  • Learnthelaw

    I don’t like blueberries. I will call all blueberries Commies and Socialist, no Fascist , because I don’t like them. I will ignore the definitions of Socialism andFascism and apply them to what I think they are. Watch out for the blueberries people, they may get near you and make you a Fascist blueberry

    • Kill The Poor

      Oh learnthelaw you know rednecks are devoid of critical thinking. They’ve been told what to believe their whole lives, from their church all the way to their parents. Never questioning anything or asking why. Thus when asked in life to explain their “beliefs” they either use the Bible as a crutch (just like church tought them) or as in Frank Sinner’s case, McCarthyism kicks in and everyone becomes a “commienazi”. No they just want to restrict Gays from being able to marry, thus denying a minority any rights they might have as human beings. Which sounds a lot like what those pesky fascists in Germany did with their minorities. The satirical analogy you just used will probably pass over the heads of most of the sheeple on this site. After all they still believe that if they keep “voting” republican, that Washington will actually give a shit about them.

    • Kill The Poor

      Aww poor Frank is offended. Can’t take it when someone calls you out on your stupidity can you Frank? Fascism has existed for the last 50 years in this country. But when it doesn’t fit YOUR agenda, now you want to call it out. Your last idiot in chief was just as bad, but you know he’s a republican so his fascism (you know PATRIOT ACT, WMD’s, 6,800 dead servicemen and women, “Misson Accomplished”) it’s swept under the rug. No we’ll just focus on Benghazi and how much the government is growing because a democrat is president. Fascism has been allowed to flourish because hypocrites like you have fallen victim to the two party myth. Just like the criminals in Washington want you to do Frank. Oh and “knowledgeable posters” Frank? It’s easy to look knowlegeable when compared to all the repeditive, regurgitated posts rednecks keep posting on here. Joe McCarthy is smiling in his grave becuase of you Frank.

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