Justice Department to give same-sex married couples equal protection

Justice Department to give same-sex married couples equal protection

"It's important because I feel like we're getting our foot in the door nationwide," said Rusty Chandler, a Cathedral City resident who married his partner of 42 years last December.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Saturday the Justice Department will treat legally-married gay couples the same as heterosexual couples.  

"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," Holder said. 

The milestone move will affect how millions of Americans interact with the federal government. That includes David Bowden and Rusty Chandler, who have been partners for more than 42 years and got married last December.

"It's more toward equality and what we as gay people need to have," Bowden said.

Under the new policy, same-sex spouses can't be compelled to testify against one another in court. They'll also be eligible to file for bankruptcy together and they'll have equal visitation rights at federal prisons. 

"We will never rest in our efforts to safeguard the civil rights to which everyone in our country is entitled," Holder said in his speech.

Senator Barbara Boxer shared her enthusiasm for the policy at the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards.

"They say that the arc of history bends toward justice in our country and I think, when history is written a long time from now, I think this is one of those things where we'll say wow, we came a long way," Boxer said.

The expansion will include all 34 states where same-sex marriage isn't legal. Bowden and Chandler believe it'll encourage those states to review and even change their own policies.  

"I think it's going to be a long process but I do think more states will recognize gay marriage," Chandler said. 

These recent strides toward equality are already more than they expected. 

"I was so excited because I never thought it would happen in my lifetime," Chandler said.

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