19 Feb Equal legal protection conferred to same-sex couples
A revolutionary precedent has been set in the United States. For the first time in the history of family law, same-sex marriages will be conferred equal protection with respect to courtroom proceedings, prison visits, and the reparation of surviving spouses of public safety officers from Monday, February 17, 2014 onward. The Justice Department will elucidate the rights of gay couples, even when their state of residence does not recognize their marriage.
This will resolve family law issues concerning same-sex domestic partners, e.g., their position on spousal support and alimony will be equated with those concerning opposite-sex couples; same-sex spouses will not be compelled to testify against each other in court; and also, in bankruptcy proceedings, same-sex couples will be entitled to file jointly.
Several outfits operating under the Justice Department will be affected by this declaration: the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Prisons and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Furthermore, same-sex couples will be entitled to a number of Justice Department benefit plans, including but not restricted to the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and benefits to surviving spouses of officers who have sustained grave and fatal injuries on duty.
Thus, every courtroom proceeding that involves a member of the Justice Department representing the U.S. will ensure that federal law confers the same legal rights, privileges and protection to gay couples as their heterosexual counterparts. Needless to say, such a sweeping declaration is path-breaking in its attempt to promote equality and fairness.
It is noteworthy that last year, the U.S. Supreme Court directed the federal government to award legal recognition to same-sex marriages in states permitting them. However, the question about the position of couples residing in a state that does not recognize their marriage was left unanswered. The position is now settled by awarding all such couples equal legal protection even if they reside in a state that does not recognize their marriage.
Source: TribLIVE, “Feds extend recognition of same-sex marriages,” Feb. 8, 2014