U.S. Justice Department to expand rights of same-sex couples

Darren Black Bear (L) and Jason Pickel exchange rings as they are married by Darren's father Rev. Floyd Black Bear (R) under a Cheyenne Arapahoe tribal licence in El Reno, Oklahoma. Credit: Reuters
Darren Black Bear (L) and Jason Pickel exchange rings as they are married by Darren’s father Rev. Floyd Black Bear (R) under a Cheyenne Arapahoe tribal licence in El Reno, Oklahoma.
Credit: Reuters

Attorney General Eric Holder plans widespread changes within the U.S. Justice Department to benefit same-sex married couples, such as recognizing a legal right for them not to testify against each other in civil and criminal cases, according to excerpts of a speech on Saturday.

The changes are designed to keep pushing for gay rights in the United States after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year said the federal government cannot refuse to recognize same-sex marriages carried out in states that allow them.

U.S. law has long included a “spousal privilege” that protects communications between a husband and wife so they cannot be forced to be incriminating witnesses against each other in court.

In addition to extending the privilege to same-sex couples in situations involving the Justice Department, Holder said he plans to put same-sex couples on the same legal footing as opposite-sex couples in other areas, including how certain debts are handled in federal bankruptcy proceedings and visitation policies at federal prisons.

“In every courthouse, in every proceeding, and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States, they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections, and rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law,” Holder said in the speech excerpts released in advance.

Holder was scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. (midnight GMT) in New York at an event for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights lobbying organization.

A written memo to department employees will follow on Monday.

The memo will “formally instruct all department employees to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law,” according to the excerpts.

The Supreme Court in June struck down part of a 1996 federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. Edith Windsor, a lesbian widow, sued after the government forced her to pay additional estate taxes because it did not recognize her marriage.

Since then, President Barack Obama’s administration has aggressively implemented the ruling in contexts such as immigration and federal employee benefits.

Holder will also make same-sex married couples equally eligible for death benefits paid to the surviving spouses of law enforcement officers who have died on duty and for benefits from the September 11 victims’ compensation fund, according to the speech excepts. The Justice Department runs both programs.

Comparing the gay-rights movement to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, when Robert Kennedy served four years as attorney general, Holder said it was important for his department to act. “As attorney general, I will not let this department be simply a bystander during this important moment in history,” he said, according to the excerpts.

Only 17 U.S. states have legalized gay marriage. In states where same-sex marriage is not legal, spousal privilege for same-sex couples is not guaranteed. In politically conservative Kentucky, for example, a state judge in September denied a woman’s request for spousal privilege to shield her from testifying against her partner in a capital murder case.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.