More Federal Privileges Extended to Same-Sex Couples

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For those couples that are of the same sex, it appears as if things are only going to get better for your partnerships and lives. Not only are more states opening their doors to acceptance of same-sex marriage, now the Federal Government is extending privileges to those who were married in the eyes of the law, but barely acknowledged.

The Justice Department will instruct all of its employees all across the country this coming Monday, in a groundbreaking event, to extend legal equality to same-sex married partners, giving them protection under the same laws as non-same-sex married partners in every program it administers, from courthouse proceedings to prison visits to the compensation of surviving spouses of public safety officers.

Disclosed in this new policy, the department will spell out the rights of same-sex couples, which includes the right to decline to testify against a spouse, even in states that do not recognize their marriage.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. prepared documents that would eliminate the legal distinction of same-sex and opposite-sex married couples, according to a prominent gay rights group.

“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,” Mr. Holder’s prepared remarks said, according to the excerpts circulated by the Justice Department.

These changes were imminent after the Supreme Court, last year, declared that it was unconstitutional to refuse federal benefits to same-sex married couples, which Mr. Holder strongly supported.

The Obama administration has rewritten the federal rules for same-sex couples to allow them to file taxes as married couples, to receive Medicare and other benefits usually reserved for opposite-sex married couples. Mr. Holder has been behind these efforts and a face in the public, supporting gay rights.

“These issues are very much at the center of this administration’s civil rights legacy,” said Ian S. Thompson, who works on gay and lesbian issues for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington.

And in a statement by Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, who couldn't be more pleased:

“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.”

This new policy comes just three years after the Justice Department said it would not defend cases involving the Defense of Marriage Act any longer, with the Supreme Court ruling, things have certainly changed.

Image via NDN

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