Justice Department Announces New Protections For Married Same-Sex Couples

CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

This weekend, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a series of new policy guidelines the Justice Department will follow in regards to recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples. The recognition follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, allowing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages. These couples will be entitled to these protections in any federal proceeding, regardless of whether they live in a state that does not recognize their marriage. Here are some of the new protections:

  • Marital privilege: Same-sex couples’ marriages will be recognized in the court of law, protecting individuals from testifying against their spouse.
  • Bankruptcy: Married same-sex couples will be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly, with the same responsibilities of other married couples.
  • Federal inmates: Incarcerated individuals who are married to someone of the same sex will have the same protections as other inmates, including spousal visitation, furloughs in times of crisis, permission to attend a spouse’s funeral, correspondence with a spouse, and reduction in sentence or compassionate release if a spouse is incapacitated.
  • Survivor benefits: The same-sex spouses of public safety officers will be entitled to the same death benefits as other spouses, and are also eligible for specific program benefits like the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation fund.

Holder introduced the new benefits at a Human Rights Campaign gala in New York City Saturday night, where he reiterated his belief that ensuring LGBT equality is a “defining civil rights challenge of our time.” Watch his full remarks: