In a watershed moment for gay rights, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will set into motion new measures that will expand same-sex marriage privileges in all federal courtrooms. The new policies aim to eliminate legal distinctions between traditional marriages and same-sex marriages.
In prepared remarks for a speech that he will deliver on Saturday night at a gay rights dinner in New York City, Holder will announce: “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.”
These rights, according to the DOJ, will extend to same-sex couples even in states that do not legally recognize their marriages, as long as they were legally married in another state. The birth of these new policies came about last year when the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny federal benefits to married same-sex couples, a ruling that Mr. Holder supported.
Moreover, President Obama hailed last year’s Supreme Court decision and asserted that the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied same-sex marriage, was “discrimination enshrined into law.” Up until two years ago, Obama supported traditional views on gay marriage and was opposed to same-sex couples getting married.
Holder goes on to say in his speech, “As all-important as the fight against racial discrimination was then, and remains today, know this: My commitment to confronting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity runs just as deep.”
According to government estimates, 1,100 federal regulations, rights, and laws involve marital status. The Attorney General will make an effort on Monday to etch into stone that all of those provisions will apply to gay couples as well as straight ones.
Listed below are some crucial issues that will be affected by the new policy:
- Same-sex couples will be covered under what is known as the spousal privilege, a rule that says spouses cannot be forced to testify against each other.
- Same-sex couples will be eligible to file jointly for bankruptcy and receive the same protections in Bankruptcy court as other married couples.
- The Bureau of Prisons will extend the same visitation rights to married same-sex couples that it does to opposite-sex couples.
- The Justice Department will also recognize same-sex couples when determining eligibility for programs like the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which pays people who were injured or made sick by the 2001 terrorist attacks.
- Same-sex spouses of police killed in the line of duty will also be eligible for federal benefits.