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Additional Rights to Come for Same-Sex Couples in Illinois

 Posted on May 21, 2014 in Family Law

same sex marriage, your rights, same-sex marriage rights, Illinois family lawyer, Illinois family lawUnder Connecticut state law, same-sex couples are already afforded the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. Now, the United States Justice Department's new guidance on how federal employees should treat and consider same-sex couples presents new rights for same-sex couples in Connecticut, as well as throughout the rest of the U.S.

The U.S. Justice Department's Announcement

 In 2013, the landmark decision reached by the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Windsor struck down section three of the Defense Of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), which defined marriage as only between a man and a woman. The Justice Department has now released guidance on how the outcome in Windsor should be interpreted and carried out at the federal level.

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. presented guidance intended to do away with federal employees and federal agencies making any distinctions in their treatment of same-sex couples. The memo that accompanied Holder's announcement stated that federal employees must now “treat all individuals equally regardless of sexual orientation.” The memo also called for federal employees to provide for the recognition of same-sex marriages as broadly as possible.

 What This Means for Same-Sex Couples

 The Justice Department's guidance has the ability to affect the application of over 1,000 federal regulations, laws, benefits, and rights. However, it is important to note that this guidance does not affect the treatment of same-sex couples at the state level. As a result of the Justice Department's guidance, same-sex couples will be eligible for all of the benefit programs provided by the Justice Department, including the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund. Furthermore, line of duty benefits given to the spouses of fallen police officers and firefighters will now be extended to their same-sex partners.

The new guidance released by the Justice Department will have a significant effect on how same-sex couples are treated by the federal courts and penal system. The Justice Department's guidance will change the rights afforded to same-sex couples in the following ways:

  • In federal court, the spousal privilege of immunity that protects an individual from being forced to testify against one's spouse will now be extended to same-sex couples;
  • Inmates at federal prisons must be granted the same visitation rights, compassionate release options, and any other rights and/or privileges that are granted to heterosexual federal inmates; and
  • In bankruptcy proceedings, same-sex couples will be encouraged to jointly file for bankruptcy the same way their heterosexual counterparts are encouraged.
The Justice Department's guidance on how the Windsor decision should be interpreted by federal employees is an important win for same-sex couples throughout the country. Contact the family law attorneys here at the Law Offices of Cosmo Tedone and Barbara Morton, P.C. in Joliet, Illinois for any issues or questions that you may have regarding the treatment of same-sex couples under federal law.
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