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Federal Equality to Come Monday for Gay Couples

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On Monday, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it will grant same-sex couples equal rights regardless of what state they live in, as long as they get married in a state that allows same-sex marriage. Gay rights advocates view this as a historic move by the Attorney General's Office.

Currently, heterosexual married couples enjoy 1,138 federal benefits that are denied to homosexual married couples in most states. However, that will change Monday February 10, 2014.

Although only 17 states allow same-sex marriage, this new change will grant equal rights to same-sex couples that do not reside in one of those states. Some foresee legal problems with this adjustment since many states do not allow same-sex marriage and prohibit gay couples from getting married in other states. According to the Marriage Evasion Act in these states, it is punishable by a $10,000 fine and nine months in prison.

Since the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act in June of 2013, which criminalized gay marriage, the momentum for equal rights has dramatically increased, putting pressure on many states to legalize it.

Another historic gay rights case was Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 when the Supreme Court struck down all state laws that criminalized gay sex between two consenting adults.

In the case of Loving v. Virginia in 1967, the Supreme Court struck down all state laws that prohibited and criminalized marriage of white and black couples. Activists expect to see a similar Supreme Court case in the near future.

However, until the Supreme Court takes up a case and makes a ruling, same-sex couples will still be denied state rights in all but 17 states. This means, gay people can still be denied housing or a job based on their sexual orientation. They can also still be refused service at a restaurant or business.

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