Justice Dept. applies same-sex rights to itself

Spouses will be able to decline testimony that could violate marital privilege, and federal prisoners will be entitled to spousal visitation
Associated Press
Feb 8, 2014

In an assertion of same-sex marriage rights, Attorney General Eric Holder is applying a landmark Supreme Court ruling to the Justice Department, announcing Saturday that same-sex spouses cannot be compelled to testify against each other, should be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly and are entitled to the same rights and privileges as federal prison inmates in opposite-sex marriages.

The Justice Department runs a number of benefits programs, and Holder says same-sex couples will qualify for them. They include the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and benefits to surviving spouses of public safety officers who suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries in the line of duty.

"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 under federal law," Holder said in prepared remarks to the Human Rights Campaign in New York. The advocacy group works on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights.

Just as in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the stakes in the current generation over same-sex marriage rights "could not be higher," said Holder.

"The Justice Department's role in confronting discrimination must be as aggressive today as it was in Robert Kennedy's time," Holder said of the attorney general who played a leadership role in advancing civil rights.

On Monday, the Justice Department will issue a policy memo to its employees instructing them to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law.

Holder's address is the latest application of a Supreme Court ruling that struck down a provision in the Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The decision applies to legally married same-sex couples seeking federal benefits.

After the Supreme Court decision last June, the Treasury Department and the IRS said that all legally married gay couples may file joint federal tax returns, even if they reside in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages. The Defense Department said it would grant military spousal benefits to same-sex couples. The Health and Human Services Department said the Defense of Marriage Act is no longer a bar to states recognizing same-sex marriages under state Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Programs. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management said it is now able to extend benefits to legally married same-sex spouses of federal employees and annuitants.

Holder told his audience:

—The Justice Department will recognize that same-sex spouses of individuals involved in civil and criminal cases should have the same legal rights as all other married couples, including the right to decline to give testimony that might violate the marital privilege. Under this policy, even in states where same-sex marriages are not recognized, the federal government will not use state views as a basis to object to someone in a same-sex marriage from invoking this right.

—The U.S. Trustee Program will take the position that same-sex married couples should be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly and that domestic support obligations should include debts such as alimony owed to a former same-sex spouse.

— Federal prisoners in same-sex marriages will be entitled to visitation by a spouse, inmate furloughs during a crisis involving a spouse, escorted trips to attend a spouse's funeral, correspondence with a spouse and compassionate release or reduction in sentence based on an inmate's spouse being incapacitated.

Comments

Donegan

Did you like Reagan? You must have to love this guy so much. guess you have not figured it out yet so i'll help you out here. Every time you say Reagan/Bush,Cheney did it first you are pointing out the simularities between them and Obama, from what everyone with a brain sees they are one and the same. Thought you people voted for change?

grumpy

Re: " Every time you say Reagan/Bush,Cheney did it first you are pointing out the simularities between them and Obama, from what everyone with a brain sees they are one and the same."

I always wonder when they use the bush, Cheney, reagan did it first rant. Is it stupider to be the first one to do something wrong. Or is it stupider, after seeing it was wrong for the first guy to do it, is it worse to do it after knowing it was wrong when the first guy did it and then do it yourself? Makes it kind of foolish to say it is bad and we knew it was bad but the other guy did it so we now think we can do it even though we know it was wrong. This seems to be Progressive reasoning at its finest.

The Big Dog's back

When Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan, his Ranger regiment responded with a chorus of prevarication and disavowal. A cynical cover-up sanctioned at the highest levels of government, followed by a series of inept official investigations, cast a cloud of bewilderment and shame over the tragedy, compounding the heartbreak of Tillman's deat

Dr. Information

Benghazi anyone?

Dcfred20036

The issue now, really, is the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment of the US Constitution. Now that the US Supreme Court has spoken on the issue of gay marriage is only a matter of time before all levels of government will be subject to the equal protection clause: for example, one state not recognizing a legal same-sex marriage of another violates this constitutional principle.

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