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DOJ extends benefits to all same-sex marriages

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] will recognize and extend benefits to all same-sex marriages [text, PDF], including those performed in states that do not recognize them, as per a policy memorandum issued by US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] on Monday. The memo, which cites the decision in United States v. Windsor [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; JURIST report] that struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act [text], states that the DOJ will recognize same-sex marriages as equally valid to heterosexual unions for all purposes of federal law. At a Human Rights Campaign gala event, Holder said [JURIST report] the following about the policy change:

This means that, in every courthouse, in every proceeding, and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States—they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections, and rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law.
Notably, the memo states that the DOJ will not challenge the rights and privileges of lawful same-sex spouses on the grounds of residence in a state that does not recognize their marriage.

Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] has been a highly polarizing issue in the American legal community. Numerous challenges to same-sex marriage bans have arisen, particularly before federal courts in recent months. Four legally married Ohio same-sex couples sued [JURIST report] on Monday in the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] to have both parents' names listed on their children's birth certificates. In January, the Tulsa County Clerk's Office appealed a district court ruling [JURIST reports] that struck down Oklahoma's constitutional same-sex marriage ban [text]. The Obama administration in December 2013 announced that the Social Security Administration [official website] would begin processing payments [JURIST report] to surviving spouses of same-sex marriages. Earlier that month, the US Department of Education [official website] announced that it would recognize all lawful same-sex marriages [JURIST report] for the purposes of applying for and receiving federal student financial aid.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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