BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - In a major milestone for gay rights, the U.S. Supreme Court announced today the expanded recognition of same-sex marriages on federal matters, putting the pressure on the Justice Department to oblige.
"For the first time in history we formally instruct all Justice Department employees to give all same sex marriages equal recognition," said Attorney General Eric Holder in an announcement on Saturday. "This Attorney General will never stop fighting to ensure equal protection."
Holder then announced government recognition of same-sex marriages in federal courtrooms, prisons, and some federal programs.
This means that now same-sex spouses cannot be compelled to testify against each other and are eligible to file for joint bankruptcy.
"It just makes sense that people who are legally married regardless of their status should be able to evoke that right," said Whitney Weddel, Chair of Bakersfield LGBTQ.
Gay couples are now entitled to the same rights as federal prison inmates in opposite-sex marriages, and will be recognized for some federal programs like the compensation fund for victims of 9/11.
These rights will be extended to same-sex couples even in states that do not recognize gay marriages, so long as the couple in question legally married in another state.
Advocates say this is just another step in the growing movement toward gender-based equality since the Supreme Court's ruling in June.
"This is a nation where we were founded on the idea that people have individual rights," said Weddel, "and what after all is a right if it isn't guaranteed to everyone equally?"