Attorney General Eric Holder is applying same-sex marriage rules from a Supreme Court ruling to the Justice Department’s conduct in same-sex matters.
Holder announced on Saturday that same-sex spouses cannot be required to give evidence against each other and should be able to file jointly for bankruptcy, as well as having the same rights in federal prison as “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.
See: SLT Post-Dispatch