Attorney General Eric Holder announced widespread changes within the U.S. Justice Department to bring the rights of legally married same-sex couples at par with legally married heterosexual couples. The changes were unveiled by Holder in a speech at New York and include rights like that of same-sex married partners not being compelled to testify against each other in civil and criminal cases.
Holder said, “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.”
Policy changes that are expected to go into effect include:
- Enabling same-sex married couples to jointly file for bankruptcy
- Enabling homosexual prisoners spousal visitation rights and furloughs during family emergencies
- Implementing the policy that a gay spouse cannot be compelled to testify against one another if the case of the other spouse is damaged
- Married same-sex couples will enjoy the same domestic support obligations under federal law as heterosexual married couples including rights to alimony under federal law
- Same-sex spouses will receive benefits where a partner, who is a public safety officer suffers an injury or is killed in the line of duty
- Same-sex spouses will receive all public benefits that heterosexual spouses are eligible to including receiving benefits from 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, where eligible
Holder said he will be immediately issuing a memo so that the new policies find immediate implementation.
The decision of the DOJ will tip the balance in favor of gay marriages in those states where same-sex marriages are still not recognized. Currently, same-sex marriage is permitted only in 17 states and the District of Columbia, though each day laws prohibiting same-sex marriages are being struck down in federal courts.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a staunch opponent of legalizing same-sex marriages, said, “The news that the Justice Department will extend sweeping recognition to ‘marriages’ of same-sex couples, even in states that do not recognize such unions, is yet another illustration of the lawlessness of this administration.”