WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department's new policy is "to recognize lawful same-sex marriages as broadly as possible," Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a memo on Monday.
In the memo, which Holder previewed in a speech on Saturday, the attorney general stipulates that the policy applies only to couples in same-sex marriages, not domestic partnerships or civil unions.
The memo recognizes that couples in same-sex marriages have the right to decline to give testimony in a civil or criminal case that might violate their marital privilege, that same-sex couples can file for bankruptcy jointly, and that federal inmates in same-sex marriages can be visited by their spouses and receive all other benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples.
Additionally, as spelled out in the memo, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has "made clear that it will treat same-sex surviving spouses in the same manner as opposite-sex surviving spouses for the purposes of carrying on a deceased spouse's licensed firearms or explosives business."
"The Department will recognize all marriages, including same-sex marriages, valid in the jurisdiction where the marriage was celebrated to the extent consistent with law. It is the Department's policy to recognize lawful same-sex marriages as broadly as possible, to ensure equal treatment for all members of society regardless of sexual orientation," Holder writes.