(RNS) In a major victory for same-sex marriage rights, the Justice Department will soon grant married gay and lesbian couples the same rights in legal matters as other married couples.

Couples kiss after they participated in the first same-sex marriage ceremony in Jersey City officiated by Mayor Steve Fulop at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Oct. 21, 2013, at City Hall. Photo by Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal - courtesy The Star-Ledger

Couples kiss after they participated in the first same-sex marriage ceremony in Jersey City officiated by Mayor Steve Fulop at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Oct. 21, 2013, at City Hall. Photo by Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal – courtesy The Star-Ledger


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The new policy announced by Attorney General Eric Holder on Saturday (Feb. 8), in New York, marks the latest step by the Obama administration to extend rights to same-sex couples that are afforded to married, heterosexual couples.

“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, an advocacy group that works on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights.

The Justice Department will issue a memo Monday (Feb. 10)  to its employees instructing them to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition to the greatest extent possible under the law. Gay marriage is currently legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

Holder, the first African-American attorney general, has frequently compared the struggles of extending rights to same-sex couples to the civil rights movement in the 1960s, a reference he made again Saturday.

“Just like during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the stakes involved in this generation’s struggle for LGBT equality could not be higher,” Holder said in prepared remarks. “Then, as now, nothing less than our country’s commitment to the notion of equal protection under the law was on the line.”

Under the new guidelines, same-sex couples would not be forced to testify in court against their spouse and would receive the same visitation rights as other married couples in prison. The Justice Department’s policy will also allow same-sex married couples to apply for federal programs such as the Sept. 11 fund to compensate victims of the terrorist attacks.

“This policy has important, real-world implications for same-sex married couples that interact with the criminal justice system,” Holder said.

Opponents of gay marriage were quick to criticize the Obama administration.

In a statement, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the extension of federal benefits, even in states that do not recognize same-sex couples, “is yet another illustration of the lawlessness of this administration.”

Perkins said the Justice Department’s decision highlights the need for Congress to pass legislation that would require federal agencies to only recognize gay and lesbian marriages in states where it is legal.

Sandy Rios, director of governmental affairs for American Family Association, also lambasted the latest move.

“While the Holder Justice Department has no time to investigate Fast and Furious or Benghazi, where Americans lost their lives, it has plenty for gay ‘rights,’” she said. “I guess you could say money and privilege for homosexuals trumps life and liberty for other Americans.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the “landmark announcement” will improve the lives of gay and lesbian couples.

“While the immediate effect of these policy decisions is that all married gay couples will be treated equally under the law, the long-term effects are more profound,” Griffin said. “Today, our nation moves closer toward its ideals of equality and fairness for all.”

“This is just the latest in a series of moves by the Obama administration, and in particular the Department of Justice, to undermine the authority and sovereignty of the states to make their own determinations regulating the institution of marriage,” said Brian Brown, president of National Organization for Marriage.

“The changes being proposed here to a process as universally relevant as the criminal justice system serve as a potent reminder of why it is simply a lie to say that redefining marriage doesn’t affect everyone in society.”

The Justice Department’s new policy is the latest in a series of victories for same-sex marriage supporters. The foundation for Holder’s announcement was established by a pair of rulings from the Supreme Court in June that boosted gay and lesbian rights when it upheld a California ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in the nation’s most populous state and struck down a federal law that denied benefits to same-sex couples who were already married.

(Christopher Doering writes for USA Today.)

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10 Comments

  1. Interesting thing about 9/11 survivor and 1st Responder medical benefits is that at the state level for NY and NJ they recognized benefits to same sex partners pretty much from day one.

    Its also ironic that the anti-marriage equality people are using “state’s rights” as the basis of their objection. State’s rights issues were what led to important bits of DOMA being declared unconstitutional. Brian Brown is behind the curve.

  2. What always follows ignorance is evil, and that includes the non-participation in government by our uninformed electorate. What always follows illiteracy is prejudice, whether it’s racial or sexual. It is plain that the vast majority of “straight” people, simply because they are the out and open majority in all the ways of our culture, have absolutely no notion that gender orientation can be any different than their own. Prejudice feeds on prejudice.

    Abysmal ignorance of science, sociology, and psychology, to say nothing of history, keeps that big majority of uninformed “straights” in their own closets. And the noise of prejudice that you are hearing is the banging of those “straight” and “gay” closet doors as they slam against each other while more and more of them are opening.

  3. Earold Gunter

    Although some people don’t like using the analogy of gay rights and the civil rights movement for African Americans, but they are both civil rights issues. Also both were made necessary due to the bigotry of narrow minded American people, and the majority of American people claim christianity as their religion.

    Coincidence? I don’t think so.

    No other group in America tries so hard to force their beliefs upon everyone. For many years they have been very successful, but lately, things are not going quite so easily. As our youth grows into adulthood, they see the falseness of religion and are choosing to caste it aside, along with the bigotry that unfortunately goes along with it. I say good riddance to bad rubbish!

    Religion is poison!!

    • Some people don’t like the analogy for several reasons:
      1. They want to endorse discriminatory behavior which used to be reserved against racial minorities
      2. The parallels have been all too clear to Civil Rights organizations. All of whom endorse marriage equality.
      3. Every bigot likes to think their views are somehow reasonable and rational.
      4. Some people think religious beliefs excuse any kind of conduct.

  4. As with any abnormal behavior I would suggest you look up the Folsom events that are held across the USA. The people of these events openly mock Christianity with the best nude Jesus contests. Gay men dress in bondage and recreate the last supper. Gay male bondage sex acts in public is now protected by local police departments. This is the same behavior show by the people of Sodmon and Gomorrah. Look up on google “gay men assault old lady with cross” this is only the tip on the gay assaults. Boy scouts cover up 1600 cases of gay scout leader molestations. And the church that forbids to marry has covered up even more molestations by gay priests.

    The bible states if you are not married you cannot engage in sexual activity irregardless of gender or preferences. So if you love Christ first then you will follow him before you own desires.

    • Earold Gunter

      John Obrian, The people who are part of the Folsom events are a sub-culture of gay people who have sexual penchants that are no different than those that a sub-culture of straight people have. To use this as a representation of all gay relationships is either naive, wistful, or dishonest.

      Also, I did Google the “gay men assault old lady with cross” and found much on it. It was not right what happened to her, even though she carried a foam cross into the middle of a gay rights protests, which some would deem as antagonistic. If you would like to see local news coverage on it, instead of the Fox version, it can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ktj36EBoK50

      Once again though you attempt to present this as the normal behavior of gay people and that is neither correct, or honest, and I’m sensing a trend of dishonesty here. It is no more of a representation of gay people than the May 2013 assault of Dan Contarino, a gay man in NY is a representation of straight people. – found at http://www.advocate.com/crime/2013/05/21/another-gay-man-attacked-new-york-city

      Also, you continue your dishonesty when you equate pedophilia with sexual relations between two consenting adults when you write about the gay scout leader molestations, and priests. Although granted that both are the most heinous of crimes, they are still not a fair representation of normal sexual relations between two consenting adults.

      As for your christ; your belief in him requires dishonesty to oneself; “faith”: believing in something which not only has no proof, but requires that any that may be presented be ignored. So the emulation of the requirements of your doctrine when you communicate are not surprising.

      Religion is poison!!

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