The Obama administration is about to make lives better for married same-sex couples across the country. On Monday, the Justice Department will be issuing new guidelines that will “formally instruct all Justice Department employees to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at the Human Rights Campaign Gala in New York on Saturday. What does that mean? Essentially that same-sex married couples will suddenly be able to benefit from many, if not most, of the legal protections enjoyed by their opposite-sex counterparts, notes Bloomberg News.
“This means that, 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.
The memo that will be issued Monday is expected to detail all the rights of same-sex couples, but is likely to include pretty much every program administered by the Justice Department, including things like courtroom proceedings and prison visits. For example, even if marriages are not recognized in the state where a same-sex couple lives, a spouse will be able to decline to give testimony that could incriminate his or her partner, details the Washington Post. Same-sex spouses will also be able to file for bankruptcy together regardless of state law, to name another example.
Holder has previously compared the current the fight for gay rights to the civil rights struggles of 50 years ago and has vowed that his department will play an active role in the fight. That was a point he made again on Saturday. "The Justice Department's role in confronting discrimination must be as aggressive today as it was in Robert Kennedy's time,” Holder said. “As Attorney General, I will not let this department be simply a bystander during this important moment in history.”