Photographed by Winnie Au.
Today, Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered Justice Department employees to give "full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent under the law" to same-sex married couples. He's expected to make the formal announcement at a Human Rights Campaign gala in New York on Saturday. It's happy news, to be sure, though the details of these "benefits" do apply to some less-than-happy circumstances.
Now, these couples can avail themselves of marital privilege in the courtroom. No, we're not talking about City Hall weddings. This means, like hetero married couples, they won't be forced to testify in a trial if it may incriminate their spouse. This ruling will be upheld even in states that don't officially recognize gay marriage. Same-sex married couples can now also jointly file for bankruptcy. Holder adds, "that domestic support obligations should include debts, such as alimony, owed to a former same-sex spouse." Finally, if imprisoned, homosexual married inmates will have the same visitation privileges, escorted trips to a spouse's funeral, and compassionate release policies for a spouse who's severely ill as their heterosexual peers.
In a set of prepared remarks reported by NPR, Holder says, "Just like during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the stakes involved in this generation's struggle for LGBT equality couldn't be higher. As attorney general, I will not let this department be simply a bystander during this important moment in history."
Enduring any of the above mentioned circumstances (prison, bankruptcy, or the loss of a spouse) would be tragic enough. We're heartened to know that gay, married couples in the U.S. won't have to face such hardships with the added indignity of being treated unequally. We're looking forward to Holder's speech on Saturday, and will be applauding extra loud. (NPR)