(CNN, February 9, 2014) – In a historic win for gay rights, the United States government announced it will soon recognize same-sex marriage in federal legal matters.
United States Attorney General Eric Holder announced this late Saturday night during his speech at the Human Rights Campaign Gala in New York City. Holder says same-sex marriages will receive all of the legal benefits as traditional marriages, even in the 34 states that still do not allow same-sex marriage. This includes rights in all federal matters, including bankruptcies, prison visits and survivor benefits.
“Already, my colleagues and I have announced the extension of significant benefits to Americans in same-sex marriages – including health insurance and other key benefits for federal employees and their families; 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,” explained Holder.
However, same-sex marriage benefits have limitations: in the states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, this new policy will only apply where the U.S. government has jurisdiction. In other words, same-sex married couples will receive equal rights in federal matters within any states that do not recognize same-sex marriage.
“These initial changes will positively impact the lives of so many throughout the nation. All of these steps forward are worth celebrating. But I also want to make one thing very clear: for my colleagues, for me – and I know for all of you – they are only the beginning,” added Holder.
In his speech, Holder said LGBT equality is a “defining civil rights challenge of our time,” and added that the Human Rights Campaign will never stop working to protect equal rights for same-sex marriage.
“I pledge to you tonight that we will never stop working to ensure that equality under the law is protected by the law,” said Holder.
The U.S. Justice Department is expected to follow this announcement with a memorandum on Monday.