In a legal victory for LGBT people and a moral victory for the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the federal government will now give same-sex marriages "full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law."
Holder announced the sweeping reform during a speech given Saturday night at the Human Rights Campaign's New York City gala, according to a CNN report issued Feb. 8.
The expansion of federal recognition for same-sex marriage will include the 34 states where same-sex marriage is not legal.
In an excerpt from his speech, the Attorney General 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.
The changes mean that the federal government will treat married lesbian and gay couples the same as heterosexual couples when they do things like file for bankruptcy, testify in court or visit family in prison.
Under the new policy, same-sex couples will enjoy the privileges enjoyed by married couples even in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, so long as the couple is legally married in another state.
Same-sex couples will now be recognized equally in programs administered by the DOJ, including the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, and the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program. That means the spouses of all law enforcement officers and firefighters are entitled to benefits in the event of death or severe injury in the line of duty.
This landmark announcement will change the lives of countless committed gay and lesbian couples for the better. While the immediate effect of these policy decisions is that all married gay couples will be treated equally under the law, the long-term effects are more profound. Today, our nation moves closer toward its ideals of equality and fairness for all. Attorney General Holder continues to show incredible leadership, and this latest action cements his place in history alongside Robert F. Kennedy, another Attorney General who crusaded for civil rights.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
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