Feds Extending Numerous Rights to Same-Sex Spouses, Couples

Even legally married gay spouses living in states without marriage equality will benefit from copious new policies.

BY Neal Broverman

February 08 2014 4:39 PM ET

The Obama administration is set to announce new policies to expand federal rights for married same-sex couples, including regulations related to bankruptcy filing, testifying against spouses in court, or visiting husbands or wives in prison.

Attorney General Eric Holder (pictured) is expected to announce the new policies at a Saturday night HRC fundraiser in New York City. The new rules will constitute a wide variety of changes, including making gay spouses of police officers killed in duty eligible for federal benefits and opening eligibility for gay partners of those killed or sickened by the 9/11 attacks.

Holder, and his boss, President Obama, are working to level the playing field for married same-sex couples so that they have as many of the same rights as male-female spouses (with approximately 1,100 laws and statutes affected by marital status, the administration has a long road ahead). Already, the government has allowed couples legally married in Washington, D.C. and the 17 states with marriage equality to file federal taxes together, as well as apply for Medicare and other government aid and benefits together.

The new rules governing same-sex spouses cover all those married in states and cities with marriage equality, even if they don’t live in places that legalized same-sex marriage.

“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,” read Holder’s prepared remarks released by the Justice Department and obtained by The New York Times.

Holder has proudly declared that expanding LGBT rights will be a central legacy of the Obama administration, comparing their work to the civil rights battle of the mid-20th century. With that said, many LGBT activists were hoping Holder would also sign an order that would ban all federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

Tags: Politics

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