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Saturday, February 08, 2014

Law - "Same-Sex Spouses Get New Federal Rights, Holder Says"

Devilin Barrett reports in the $$ WSJ this afternoon:

The Obama administration will give same-sex couples who are legally married the same status as other married couples in federal legal matters—including bankruptcy proceedings, prisoner visitation and death benefits for slain police officers, Attorney General Eric Holder said Saturday.

The Justice Department, Mr. Holder said, would issue new instructions to its employees on Monday to extend the same protections historically afforded to heterosexual married couples. * * *

Opponents of same-sex marriage have argued the Obama administration should wait for Congress to pass legislation that would allow federal recognition of gay marriages in states where it is legal to wed.

In a series of speeches, Mr. Holder has compared the current efforts to extend rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans to the civil-rights struggles of African-Americans 50 years ago.

"The Justice Department's role in confronting discrimination must be as aggressive today as it was in Robert Kennedy's time," Mr. Holder told attendees at the HRC gala. "As Attorney General, I will not let this department be simply a bystander during this important moment in history."

Matt Apuzzo has a similar story in the NY Times:
The government estimates that more than 1,100 federal regulations, rights and laws touch on, or are affected by, marital status. With a memo on Monday, Mr. Holder plans to make several of those provisions apply equally to gay and straight couples.

In court cases and criminal investigations, for example, 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. The Bureau of Prisons will extend the same visitation rights to married same-sex couples that it does to opposite-sex couples, Mr. Holder said.

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.

The federal rules have no effect on state laws. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 8, 2014 03:01 PM
Posted to General Law Related