US expands federal marriage rights for same-sex couples

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Feb. 10, 2014

NEW YORK – In a historic victory for gay rights, the US Department of Justice issued a policy memo Monday – calling for the expanded federal recognition of same-sex marriages to the greatest extent possible under the law.

That means the US Federal Government will now recognize same-sex marriages even in the 34 states where same-sex marriage is not legally allowed.

It does not mean they can now get married in those states – it just means their rights as legally married couples are now recognized throughout the US.

“The stakes involved in this generation’s struggle for LGBT equality could not be higher,” US Attorney General Eric Holder said. “We will never stop working to ensure that equality under the law is protected by the law.”

Advocates say it’s a step closer towards equality.

From legal matters such as filing bankruptcies as a couple to full visitation rights in prison – under the new policy, the Justice Department will now recognize legal rights of same-sex spouses equally as traditional married couples.

This would also include the right of refusal to testify against a spouse in court, as well as survivor benefits for police officers and firefighters killed on the job.

Holder said: “A uniform policy ensuring that all same-sex married couples are recognized for federal tax purposes and a policy dictating that, for purposes of immigration law, same-sex and opposite-sex marriages are treated exactly the same.”

While the new memo is an extension of the Supreme Court’s decision last year striking down DOMA, the Defense of Marriage act, critics say it’s another Washington overreach.

National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown says this is the Obama administration’s way to undermine the authority and sovereignty of states to make their own decisions when it comes to regulating the institution of marriage.

However, Doctor Leo Pandac of The National Asian Republican Coalition says the policy memo has received some support from Filipino Republican leaders in Los Angeles.

He said that this would benefit the LGBT community positively and that most Americans including Republicans would support it.

Holder says this is all about equality for all Americans.

“Nothing less than our country’s founding commitment to the notion of equal protection under the law is at stake,” the attorney general said.

A National Quinnipiac University poll last September showed that 56 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage. That’s a big jump compared to the 25 percent who supported it in 1996.

Supporters say this major milestone in gay rights would only change the lives of thousands of committed gay and lesbian couples for the better.

You may contact Don Tagala at for more information.

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