Attorney General Eric Holder

US Attorney General Eric Holder

America’s Attorney General Eric Holder has announced new landmark measures to ensure that the federal government will treat legally married same-sex couples the same as straight married couples.

The changes will affect married same-sex couples who file for bankruptcy, testify in court or visit spouses in prison.

Anyone in a same-sex marriage will, for example, be allowed to refuse to testify against his or her partner in court, a right granted to heterosexual married couples. They’ll also be allowed to file for bankruptcy jointly.

“On Monday, I will issue a new policy memorandum that will – for the first time in history – formally instruct all Justice Department employees to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law,” said Holder at a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) dinner in New York on Friday.

“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,” he said.

The changes will only impact on gay and lesbian couples who have been married in one of the 17 American states were it is legal to do so. They will, however, have these rights in any state in the country.

The HRC welcomed the news, saying that the announcement “will change the lives of countless committed gay and lesbian couples for the better.”

HRC President Chad Griffin commented that,”while the immediate effect of these policy decisions is that all married gay couples will be treated equally under the law, the long-term effects are more profound.”

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