Justice Dept. applies same-sex rights to itself - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Justice Dept. applies same-sex rights to itself

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In an assertion of same-sex marriage rights, Attorney General Eric Holder is applying a landmark Supreme Court ruling to the Justice Department.

The attorney general says same-sex spouses cannot be compelled to testify against each other, should be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly and are entitled to the same rights and privileges as federal inmates in opposite-sex marriages.

The attorney general says that in every federal courthouse and in every proceeding where Justice Department employees stand, they will ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections and rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law.

In Arizona, Rebecca Wininger says Holder's announcement won't affect most gay and lesbian couples like herself and her partner, but it is a step forward.

"The biggest part of the battle is still here," Wininger said. "That's what we get up for every day and continue to fight for."

Wininger says because Arizona doesn't recognize same-sex marriage, she would have to get married in another state to be eligible for the federal benefits Holder outlined. 

A pro-freedom attorney in Chandler, Marc Victor says Holder's announcement continues a trend toward equality in America.

"It's simply being consistent with what the United States Supreme Court mandated had to happen," Victor said.

While the policy change doesn't directly affect Winninger and many other gay couples in Arizona, she says it does give her hope for equal rights.

"It could be as much as 10 years, but I think we'll see it in my lifetime," she said. "I wasn't ready to say that five years ago so a lot of things are shifting." 

On Monday, the Justice Department will issue a policy memo to its employees instructing them to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition to the greatest extent possible under the law.

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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