the justice department on monday will extend a new package of federal benefits to same-sex couples. attorney general eric holder said the benefits will give "lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law."
in remarks prepared for a speech on saturday night to the human rights campaign in new york, holder said the new benefits apply to gay couples who are legally married. he said they will also be extended to couples who live in states which do not recognize same-sex marriage.
the moves are the latest in a series of actions following the u.s. supreme court's ruling in june on the defense of marriage act (doma). prior to the court's historic ruling, doma barred the federal government from recognizing legally valid same-sex marriages. "our nation moves closer to its ideals of equality and fairness for all, " said chad griffin of the human rights campaign, in response to the announcement.
under the new directive, government lawyers will operate under the assumption same-sex spouses should have the same rights in federal courts as opposite-sex couples - such as declining to testify against a spouse. that rule will apply in federal criminal and civil cases, holder said, "even in states where same-sex marriages are not recognized."
same-sex couples will also receive federal death benefits and educational payments given to surviving spouses of public safety officers who suffer catastrophic injuries or die in the line of duty. "the federal government should stand by that hero's spouse - no matter whether that spouse is straight or gay," holder said.
inmates in federal prison who have same-sex spouses will be given the same benefits as those in opposite-sex marriages, including visitation rights and eligibility for compassionate release or reductions in sentences based on the incapacitation of a spouse. additionally, the justice department feels same-sex couples should be treated equally in federal bankruptcy proceedings.
holder made civil rights one of the top priorities for the justice department upon his appointment by president obama. with this newfound initiative, he acknowledged his commitment to fighting racial discrimination. he said, "my commitment to confronting discrimination based on sexual orientation runs just as deep."
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.