Dept. of Justice to Extend Federal Benefits to Same-Sex Marriages
Scottsdale family attorneys at the Law Office of Hope E. Fruchtman we like to keep our readers informed about updates in the field of family law. One of the most recent announcements regarding family law was the statement made Saturday, February 8th, 2014 by Attorney General Eric Holder that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would follow a new policy of recognizing “valid same-sex marriages”—referring to same-sex marriages that are entered into or “celebrated” in a jurisdiction (state, district, or foreign country) which authorizes same-sex marriage.
The official memo, published on Monday, February 10th, 2014 makes clear that the DOJ will recognize same-sex marriages to the full extent under the federal law, regardless of where the couple currently lives. This means that the DOJ only cares about the “place of celebration” (where the marriage license originates), not the place of residence.
Legally married same-sex spouses can now receive benefits and compensation through DOJ agencies and programs including:
- the Public Safety Officer’s Benefits Program
- the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund
- the radiation Exposure Compensation Program
- the rights and benefits given by the Bureau of Prisons including the right to visitation at federal prisons and next-of-kin notifications, regardless of where the inmate is placed or the inmate’s spouse lives.
The DOJ statement also impacts the marital privileges in both federal criminal and civil cases, including:
- the confidential communications privilege, which protects the confidential communications between spouses during marriage
- testimonial privilege, which may protect a party or witness spouse from being called to testify against his or her spouse.
These benefits do not apply to same-sex couples that are registered in a domestic partnership or civil union. Nor does this complete the list of federal benefits available to same-sex policy—this is merely a general announcement.
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