DOJ expands federal privileges of same-sex couples

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

New York, NY, United States (4E) – The Department of Justice (DOJ) will formally provide same-sex couples the same privileges, protections and rights as married opposite-sex spouses under federal law.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. revealed during Saturday’s Human Rights Campaign (HRC) gala in New York that he will issue on Monday a memo containing policies like not forcing same-sex spouses to testify against each other in court cases and criminal investigations.

Married lesbian and gay spouses can also jointly file for bankruptcy in states that does not recognize same-sex marriage, will have prison visitation rights and be eligible for federal benefits if they are survivors of police officers and firefighters killed on the job or were injured or made sick by the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to Holder.

The DOJ will extend the new federal benefits to married same-sex couples in 34 states where such marriage is illegal as long as the U.S. government has jurisdiction, the attorney general clarified.

The HRC lauded Holder and the landmark changes in a statement.

“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,” said the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

The National Organization for Marriage criticized Holder and accused the Obama administration of undermining the authority and sovereignty of states to make their own determinations regulating the institution of marriage.

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