Speaking at an event by a gay lobby group in New York on Saturday (Feb. 8), Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department will treat same-sex marriage on par with traditional marriage in all federal legal matters, even in states where gay marriage is not legal.
On Monday, the Justice Department will send “formal instruction” to all its employees “to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law,” according to excerpts of Holder’s speech.
“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 at the Human Rights Campaign’s New York City gala, according to Reuters.
Federal benefits, including bankruptcies, prison visits and survivor benefits, will also be extended to 34 states that do now allow same-sex marriage, but those benefits will apply only where the federal government has jurisdiction, Holder added, according to CNN.
The government will not contest rights of gay married couples in states where previously prosecutors could argue that the marriage is not recognized in the state where the couple lives, Holder added.