Attorney General Eric Holder has made civil rights a priority for the Justice Department and he has put that commitment into action when it comes to the equal rights of same-sex couples. According to NBC News on Feb. 8, the Justice Department will extend a new package of federal benefits to same-sex couples starting on Monday.
AG Holder stated that these new benefits would be extended to gay couples who are legally married and will also apply to those who live in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage. Some of these new and extended benefits include federal death benefits as well as educational payments given to surviving spouses of public safety officers who suffer sustaining injuries or even death.
According to Holder, “the federal government should stand by that hero’s spouse – no matter whether that spouse is straight or gay.”
The action is a further indication of the change and transition that has taken place since the historic US Supreme Court ruling back in June of 2013 that struck down an important part of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Under the new benefits package, government lawyers will also recognize same-sex spouses with the same rights as opposite-sex couples in federal court cases. Spouses can decline to testify against a spouse in federal criminal and civil cases as explained by Holder. Again, “even in states where same-sex marriages are not recognized.”
These new benefits will also extend to inmates in federal prison, including visitation rights. Same-sex couples will also be treated equally in federal bankruptcy proceedings.
This is another step in the Justice Department’s dedication to “confronting discrimination based on sexual orientation.” These new benefits give “lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition” and assure recognition of those same-sex marriages beyond the 17 states that have made commitments to marriage equality.
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