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DOJ Makes Same-Sex Spousal Benefits Official

By Sunnivie Brydum

U.S. attorney general Eric Holder today published the Justice Department's formal guidance on how the federal government will treat legally married same-sex couples, making good on a pledge he announced at Saturday's Human Rights Campaign gala in New York City

The formal announcement confirms that the federal government will extend most of the benefits and privileges of marriage to same-sex couples whose marriage was legal in the jurisdiction where it was performed, regardless of where the couple resides permanently. Legally married same-sex spouses will be granted the same privileges as opposite-sex married couples when it comes to testifying against a spouse in court, declaring bankruptcy, and visiting a spouse who is incarcerated. 

Holder's policy memo establishes that "It is the Department’s policy, to the extent federal law permits, to recognize lawful same-sex marriages as broadly as possible, and to recognize all marriages valid in the jurisdiction where the marriage was celebrated."

BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner posted the memo in full and noted that the DOJ announcement establishes the policy as the "default" for all federal agencies, following similar decisions from other federal agencies that promised to recognize marriages based on the "place of celebration," including the State Department and Internal Revenue Service

Read the attorney general's initial announcement on the broad benefits now being offered to married same-sex couples here

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