U.S. Attorney General: Equal rights for same-sex couples

(WWLP) – For the first time, the Federal Government will give married same-sex couples access to the same benefits as heterosexual couples.

Starting Monday, lawfully-married same-sex couples are to receive full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law.  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made the announcement at a Human Rights Campaign event in New York over the weekend.

Holder is applying the rights following a previous Supreme Court ruling, which struck down the part of the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

“The singular ideal that has defined this country since its earliest days, the notion that all are created equal,” Holder said.

This change means that same-sex couples are to enjoy all the rights that opposite-sex married couples do under several federal departments of government, including the Defense Department, the Health and Human Services Department, and the U.S. Trustees Program.

Some of the federal benefits that same-sex couples are now entitled to include jointly filing on their federal tax returns, military spousal benefits, eligibility to file for bankruptcy together, and the same federal prison inmate visitation rights as opposite-sex married couples have.

Same sex marriage is currently banned in 33 of the 50 states.  The newly instated federal benefits apply only where the U.S. government has jurisdiction.

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