In a major victory for same-sex marriage rights, the Justice Department will soon grant married same-sex couples the same rights in legal matters as other married couples.
The move, which will be announced by Attorney General Eric Holder later Saturday, marks the latest step by the Obama administration to extend rights to same-sex couples that are afforded to married, heterosexual couples.
"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 prepared remarks to the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group in New York that works on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights.
The Justice Department will issue a memo to its employees Monday telling them to give married same-sex couples the same treatment under the law whenever possible.
Under the new policy, same-sex couples will not be forced to testify in court against their spouse and will receive the same visitation rights as other married couples in prison. The Justice Department's guidelines also would allow same-sex marriage couples to apply for federal programs such as the 9/11 fund to compensate victims of the terrorist attacks.
Holder has frequently compared the struggles of extending rights to same-sex couples to the civil rights struggle of the 1960s.