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In every courthouse....
February 8, 2014 4:04 PM   Subscribe

Attorney General Eric Holder will announce tonight at the annual HRC gala that the United States federal government will treat lawful same-sex marriages sweeping equal protection under the law in every program it administers, from courthouse proceedings to prison visits to the compensation of surviving spouses of public safety officers.

According to Holder, "Just like during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the stakes involved in this generation’s struggle for LGBT equality could not be higher. Then, as now, nothing less than our country’s commitment to the notion of equal protection under the law was on the line. And so the Justice Department’s role in confronting discrimination must be as aggressive today as it was in Robert Kennedy’s time. As Attorney General, I will not let this Department be simply a bystander during this important moment in history."
posted by roomthreeseventeen (74 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Between this, and the embarrassing Zimmerman "celebrity" fight being cancelled, it's been a good day!
posted by Ruki at 4:11 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


First of all: Awesome!

Now the question: Is this essentially just bringing the various justice department programs in line with the post-DOMA landscape? My understanding of Windsor (which could easily be wrong) is that as a general rule, the feds have to treat lawful marriages as, well, lawful marriages. Is this just them being proactive and not making each program be challenged?

which don't get me wrong, is still a good thing. Just curious.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:11 PM on February 8


Will same-sex spouses be treated the same for immigration purposes?
posted by pravit at 4:13 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


I believe they already are, pravit. I'll try to find the links.
posted by rtha at 4:15 PM on February 8


Yup.
posted by rtha at 4:16 PM on February 8


*crossing fingers for Scalia to be incapacitated by rage aneurysm*
posted by theweasel at 4:38 PM on February 8 [17 favorites]


Now the question: Is this essentially just bringing the various justice department programs in line with the post-DOMA landscape? My understanding of Windsor (which could easily be wrong) is that as a general rule, the feds have to treat lawful marriages as, well, lawful marriages. Is this just them being proactive and not making each program be challenged?

IANAL, but yes, I believe that's the point. In the Buzzfeed link, it describes a bit about the difference between benefits that are based on place of celebration and place of residence. This new memo clarifies that unless a federal agency specifically says you need to live in a marriage equality state to get certain benefits, that all DOJ/federal agencies will go with the place of celebration rule.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:41 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Hey look the government did something right
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:42 PM on February 8 [16 favorites]


The first comment is a lot more heartwarming than you might expect:

I am an Evangelical Christian -- part of that group so many want to marginalize as 'whack-jobs.' Jesus Christ is my Lord & Savior, and I believe He came to bring salvation to ALL of humanity. I'm not sure what I believe personally with respect to the morality of practicing homosexuality -- I am a product of my upbringing and religious training, and I am flawed and limited in my understanding of God's will -- as is every human being on the planet. What I DO know is that Jesus called us to love...to live in graciousness, kindness, and humility, and above all not to judge others. I don't speak of holding others accountable for following the laws of society, but of presuming to know what is holy and acceptable to God.

I have no idea how God will judge anyone - gay or straight - but that prerogative is His, not mine. As a human being, a Federal worker, and a citizen of the United States, I celebrate this announcement for its fairness, inclusiveness, and compassion. A nation that marginalizes any law-abiding subset of its society is not just, and this policy is a major step forward in extending justice to everyone. It makes me proud to be a civil servant, and I hope it will improve the quality of life for a significant segment of our society.

posted by Sebmojo at 4:43 PM on February 8 [124 favorites]


This totally would have happened in a Romney administration, and there is no difference between the parties.

It is wonderful news but no reason to take our eyes off those evils the two parties share.
posted by steinsaltz at 4:58 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]


!!!
posted by desjardins at 4:59 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


*crossing fingers for Scalia to be incapacitated by rage aneurysm*

Could we avoid wishing debilitating or fatal events on people, even people we don't like?
posted by HuronBob at 5:00 PM on February 8 [22 favorites]


Yowza.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:04 PM on February 8


Thanks Obama
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:06 PM on February 8 [29 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen has it: place of celebration will determine marital status for federal status. I read something somewhere about SS survivor benefits being included even though place of residence is baked into the statute, so there will be some marginally interesting issues there.
posted by jpe at 5:09 PM on February 8


Ah, scratch the bit about SS survivor benefits. Seemed to be talking about certain DOJ benefits only. I assumed this was a sweeping, pan-agency determination when it's really just about intra-DOJ stuff. Still good news, of course.
posted by jpe at 5:13 PM on February 8


This could all have been done years ago, just as it was now: by a stroke of the pen.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:17 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Could we avoid wishing debilitating or fatal events on people, even people we don't like?

Sorry, specifically tried not to use "I wish he would die". I was imagining a Yosemite Sam-style muttering, "Rackin'-frackin'-tarnation-gumbo"etc until he turned purple in the face, thus preventing him from his Justicey duties. With Ginsberg leaving sooner than not, I think about Scalia more than I'd wish. But didn't want to tarnish a celebratory post.

Who knows, maybe he's just happy to be proven right... ("Instead, “the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition,” Scalia wrote, and such suits are a “second . . . shoe to be dropped later.”)
posted by theweasel at 5:22 PM on February 8 [5 favorites]


Joe in Australia: "This could all have been done years ago, just as it was now: by a stroke of the pen."

But it's still a good thing that it's happening now. Maybe not as good as if it had happened years ago but still good.
posted by octothorpe at 5:24 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


It could only have been done lawfully after the Windsor case.
posted by jpe at 5:24 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


This could all have been done years ago, just as it was now: by a stroke of the pen.
I liked Civil Rights before they got big.
posted by Flunkie at 5:27 PM on February 8 [16 favorites]


I cordially dislike any and all manifestations of 'Oh, GOOD THING happened? Well why couldn't BETTER THING have happened? Pshhhhh.'

Not because it is mean spirited, though it often is, but because it is boring. Because it is always true. So by saying it you are saying nothing.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:43 PM on February 8 [26 favorites]


"Ah, scratch the bit about SS survivor benefits. Seemed to be talking about certain DOJ benefits only. I assumed this was a sweeping, pan-agency determination when it's really just about intra-DOJ stuff. Still good news, of course."

What? Where did you see that? I mean, yeah, Social Security is not in the purview of the DOJ and so Holder couldn't (AFAIK) change that policy; but, on the other hand, the quote in the article is this:
The Social Security Administration will pay death benefits to survivors of a same-sex marriage.
That's pretty unambiguous.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:44 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Could we avoid wishing debilitating or fatal events on people, even people we don't like?

Well, (a) the Dalai Lama probably can, but most of us can't, and (b) in this case I'd call it "wishing good things for the country".
posted by uosuaq at 5:49 PM on February 8 [7 favorites]


"This could all have been done years ago, just as it was now: by a stroke of the pen."

To clarify jpe's comment, this would have been illegal prior to last year's Surpreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor that found Section 3 of 1996's Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. So, no, it certainly could not have been done years ago, but only no more than seven months ago.

DOMA was designed, among other things, to illegalize precisely such executive actions.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:50 PM on February 8 [20 favorites]


It's about fucking time. It's a goddamn sin that it took this long, and so much pain, heartbreak, humiliation, outrage and anguish had to happen for this to become a reality.
posted by zarq at 5:57 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


I will concede the Romney point, that this would have happened under a Romney administration. However. The fact that President Obama announced that he was in favor of same-sex marriage in May 2012 was huge. The fact that he wrote the hospital visitation memo in 2010 was huge. And the Obama administration's leadership on LGBT issues definitely brought us to a point where Windsor could be decided the way it was.

And that would not have happened, I believe, under a McCain administration.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:04 PM on February 8


I will concede the Romney point, that this would have happened under a Romney administration.

I think the point was that it would not have.
posted by yoink at 6:24 PM on February 8 [7 favorites]


This is what it feels like when society progresses. I wish it didn't have to take so damned long.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:27 PM on February 8


*crossing fingers for Scalia to be incapacitated by rage aneurysm*

I'm crossing my fingers for Scalia to realize that rights are rights whether or not he feels sympathetic to the specific people whose rights are being brought inch by inch up to the same level of the majority of American society, and actually a little optimistic that he will, giving his better-than-you-might-expect record on rights of criminal defendants.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:31 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]


Scalia had his aneurism in his Windsor dissent. He whined on and on about how unfair it is that those mean pro-equality bullies call anti-equality bigots intolerant monsters and whatnot. Boo-fucking-hoo.
posted by univac at 6:47 PM on February 8


Scalia was incapacitated long ago. He just continues to try.
posted by darkstar at 6:53 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Zero chance this would of happened under Romney. He would have appointed a far right AG and the DOJ would be going after obscenity like Ed Meese did in the 80s
posted by humanfont at 6:57 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


This could all have been done years ago, just as it was now: by a stroke of the pen.


This could all have been done years from now, just as it was today: by the stroke of the pen.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:00 PM on February 8 [15 favorites]


place of celebration will determine marital status for federal status.

Cool, thanks! Reminds me of somewhat of this thread from two years ago.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:18 PM on February 8


Wheels slowly turning forward sure beats the hell out of stopped or reverse.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 8:10 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


This is nice but will presumably get undone as soon as we have our next republican president.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 8:12 PM on February 8


This is nice but will presumably get undone as soon as we have our next republican president.

It is very hard to take away rights that have already been granted. (See, Perry)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:15 PM on February 8


This could all have been done years ago, just as it was now: by a stroke of the pen.

Right. And if it was done improperly, it could have been undone by the stroke of the next President's pen.

None of this will be undone. The country has moved. I continue to be impressed with the fact that President Obama has overseen a shrewd and strategic expansion of LGBT rights at a pace that virtually ensures constant movement in a forward direction towards change that will last forever.

Which would you prefer?
posted by dry white toast at 8:15 PM on February 8 [7 favorites]


Only slightly related, but can I just say how happy I was made by Obama sending three great Lesbian and Gay Olympians in his place as the delegation to Sochi?
posted by Navelgazer at 8:21 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


Another nail in the coffin of what Fark has taken to abbreviating as "BSABSVR" - "Both Sides Are Bad So Vote Republican." Yes, Obama is rightward-leaning "Third Way" Democrat, and yes he takes his sweet time trying to do things the way he thinks they should be done, regardless of political reality. At the end of the day, neither a McCaine nor Romney administration would have done this, and if you think Hillary isn't a rightward-leaning "Third Way" Democrat who takes her sweet time trying to do things the way she thinks they should be done, I don't know what to tell you.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:29 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


It is very hard to take away rights that have already been granted. (See, Perry)

I'm not as optimistic. Look at the continuing efforts to undo Roe v. Wade, voting rights, Great Society, and New Deal programs. No social advance ever seems fully settled.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 8:31 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]


I'm not as optimistic. Look at the continuing efforts to undo Roe v. Wade, voting rights, Great Society, and New Deal programs. No social advance ever seems fully settled.

It's not settled, but yeah, look at those continuing efforts. They're roundabout. Nobody's challenging Roe v. Wade directly, they're making rules about pre-abortion ultrasounds. Yes, those rules are horrible, and some states are making rules that effectively ban abortion, but the underlying rule remains intact.
posted by I've a Horse Outside at 8:35 PM on February 8


Honestly, I think the final crumbling of gay marriage resistance and, for that manner, marijuana legalization resistance is just going to be dealing with the snarl of legal and tax issues that the mishmash of state laws is going to make and eventually the lawyers and judges will go "Okay okay FINE it's legal, whatever god just stop talking about this".
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:47 PM on February 8 [10 favorites]


This is nice but will presumably get undone as soon as we have our next republican president.

It's a calculated risk, true. And certainly I'll bet that there is political motivation for this, with 2014 and 2016 elections close at hand, as much as some wish to embarrass Putin on the global stage (as he well deserves). I imagine that there is also some small hope that, in the meantime, a court ruling or two will reaffirm equal protection under the law for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation, which would make it difficult for a conservative to take away rights.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:53 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]


This is not NEARLY as important as how fantastic it is to see further expansion of civil rights, but boy howdy am I having a hard time parsing "sweeping" in the WaPo quotation. What is sweeping doing in this sentence? What is it modifying? YAY CIVIL RIGHTS.
posted by davidjmcgee at 9:14 PM on February 8


This is nice but will presumably get undone as soon as we have our next republican president.

I can barely imagine the pain that would involve for the bureaucracy. Specialty status for people who were married for three years followed by an involuntary dissolution. So many squirrelly little exceptions to work into every facet of the tax code, immigration services...

Speaking of which it was mentioned upthread that the INS already recognizes same sex marriages: there's been just about zero outcry in Congress about it. I'm sure there are some districts where it is still a key issue but on the national stage gay marriage just isn't what it once was.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:01 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


davidjmcgee, the quote in the OP is mangled; in the article it makes (sort of) more sense:

The Justice Department on Monday will instruct all of its employees across the country, for the first time, to give lawful same-sex marriages sweeping equal protection under the law in every program it administers[...]
posted by threeants at 10:16 PM on February 8


this is the bomb, the real fucking deal. These are huge rights that come into cases all the time. They are ways in which those with gay partners lose in court and in everyday conflicts with others. These are the real powers of marriage, legally, except for a single paternity presumption, for obvious reasons.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:20 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


In a sane world, tomorrow morning would have a swarm of democrats on the bobblehead shows talking about how opposition to this no-nonsense pro-freedom plan is something only a dick of an asshole like Putin would oppose and the GOP opposes this because they want to turn America into Russia.

But what will actually happen is President McCain who Won By Losing will declare that Obama hates freedom and besides, Liberals are mean to billionaires. The hosts will nod sagely and agree that the next six months are critical.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:26 PM on February 8 [10 favorites]


I liked Civil Rights before they got big.
And lately I've been into this thing called “free speech”, you probably haven't heard of it.

(also: Yay!)
posted by hattifattener at 11:25 PM on February 8


Progress is infuriatingly slow and oddly average. In the larger view it, well, progresses. Looking closely at places like Afghanistan you see regression. It's sort of an entropy thing where there may be specific locations where there is backward movement but the trend is always forward. I would rather be alive now than in Medieval times. That said, I'm worried that corporations are becoming a new entity.

I should probably shut up and go to sleep.
posted by vapidave at 11:37 PM on February 8


Had John McCain been elected president Windsor would have been decided 6-3 in favor of DOMA.

I have my issues with Obama, but I don't get how he gets painted as some kind of anti-gay bogey man in some circles. Before Obama, the next most gay-friendly president signed into law DOMA and DADT. The only other president I can think of who represents such a dramatic sea change in attitude towards a civil right is maybe Abraham Lincoln on slavery.
posted by dirigibleman at 4:52 AM on February 9 [5 favorites]


I am putting this in the Unbelievable-Yet-True file. Stunnning. Good job, Obama.
posted by marienbad at 5:06 AM on February 9


But, but... Democrats are just as bad as Republicans!
Ralph Nader said so!
posted by markkraft at 5:34 AM on February 9 [3 favorites]


Could we avoid wishing debilitating or fatal events on people, even people we don't like?

If there is one thing I wish people would stop doing, it is this. Not the wishing of death or painful rectal cancer on someone, this pious pantie twisting over wishing it on someone. It is just a fucking wish, a venting of frustration on mostly old white men (Cheney, Scalia, the Koch brothers etc.) without a scintilla of humanity in them whose wretched ideology and motivations make this a more miserable world. It's not like any of these foul creatures are going to die tomorrow, it is just a fervent heart-felt wish that these pencil-dicks would stop poisoning everything with their bile-soaked philosophy and hoping for a quick end to it. Trust me, it's not like an asshole like Scalia gives a frothy shit whether you are wishing death on him. He's sleeping quite well at night.
posted by Ber at 9:17 AM on February 9 [9 favorites]


Not the wishing of death or painful rectal cancer on someone, this pious pantie twisting over wishing it on someone.

It's called the high road and it's worth taking.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:35 AM on February 9 [3 favorites]


" Looking closely at places like Afghanistan you see regression."

No you don't. You see backlash, done by scared, increasingly unpopular, disproportionately male religious extremists.
posted by markkraft at 8:47 PM on February 9


It is just a fucking wish, a venting of frustration on mostly old white men (Cheney, Scalia, the Koch brothers etc.) without a scintilla of humanity in them

History is littered with the horrific examples of what happens when we decide certain people are subhuman.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:15 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I don't know. I have wished painful and utterly ridiculous deaths and consequences on assholes in power and have so far managed to keep from committing genocide or inspiring the commission of it.

That said, I hope Scalia lives a long and brain-at-full-capacity life such that he can truly appreciate how hideously wrong, cruel, and uncharitable he has so often been.
posted by rtha at 9:36 AM on February 10


There's a bit Louis CK does that goes something like "I'm a rich white guy, you can't even hurt my feelings!" It's like that. Idly wishing a gruesome death on a horrible public figure doesn't even register on their radar.
posted by desjardins at 9:43 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


History is littered with the horrific examples of what happens when we decide certain people are subhuman.

History is littered with the horrific examples of what happens when we decide certain GROUPS of people are subhuman. Wishing ill upon individuals is pretty different. It's like the difference between "you're stupid" and "all [x] people are stupid" (where x is any group label - gay, straight, black, white, etc).
posted by Dysk at 7:08 PM on February 10


The dominoes keep on falling:

Nevada Officials Won't Defend Gay Marriage Ban
Nevada's attorney general and governor said Monday that they won't defend the state's gay marriage ban when it goes before a federal appeals court, saying that a recent court decision makes the state's arguments supporting its constitutional amendment "no longer defensible."

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, in a motion filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said Nevada's legal arguments defending the voter-approved prohibition aren't viable after the court's recent ruling that potential jurors cannot be removed from a trial during jury selection solely because of sexual orientation.

"After thoughtful review and analysis, the state has determined that its arguments grounded upon equal protection and due process are no longer sustainable," Masto said in a statement.

Nevada's move comes as the federal government and courts around the country in recent months have chipped away at laws the prohibit marriage and benefits for same-sex couples. In a one-month span from December to January, two federal judges struck down state bans on gay marriage for the same reason, concluding that they violate the U.S. Constitution's promise of equal protection under the law.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican seeking re-election this year, said he agreed with the Democratic attorney general's action.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:42 AM on February 11 [5 favorites]


States should lift life bans on voting for ex-felons: Attorney General
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:07 AM on February 11


Judge: Kentucky Must Recognize Same-Sex Marriages
In 23-page a ruling issued Wednesday, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II concluded that Kentucky's laws treat gay and lesbians differently in a "way that demeans them." The constitutional ban on same-sex marriagewas approved by voters in 2004. The out-of-state clause was part of it.

The decision came in lawsuits brought by four gay and lesbian couples seeking to force the state to recognize their out-of-state marriages.

Heyburn did not rule on whether the state could be forced to perform same-sex marriages.

The question was not included in the lawsuit.
This guy's a Republican appointed by Bush I, and he specifically cites Windsor.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:54 AM on February 12


Bonus: The judge's decision tweaks Scalia.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:22 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Goodness, it's all happening very very quickly, isn't it?

Calling it now: gay marriage legal across the entire USA before the 2016 election.

And, likely, the Republicans are going to use some bullshit about outlawing it again to try and rile up the base.

And they will fail.

I'm laying in popcorn supplies now.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:06 PM on February 13


"INDIANAPOLIS — A vote by Indiana residents on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was delayed by at least two years on Thursday after the state's Senate declined to restore language that would have put the amendment on track for the 2014 ballot.

Postponing a public vote on the measure was seen as a victory for gay rights activists."
posted by rtha at 3:12 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


"S.2024
Latest Title: A bill to amend chapter 1 of title 1, United States Code, with regard to the definition of "marriage" and "spouse" for Federal purposes and to ensure respect for State regulation of marriage.
Sponsor: Sen Cruz, Ted [TX] (introduced 2/12/2014) Cosponsors (1)
Latest Major Action: 2/12/2014 Introduced in the Senate. Read the first time. Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under Read the First Time."

Is there no end to his douchebaggery.
posted by rtha at 3:40 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Apparently the answer is "no". He really is loathsome. He delights in being loathsome. And it's pretty revealing that almost everyone who knows him from university or law school thinks that he's a prick.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:26 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


it's pretty revealing that almost everyone who knows him from university or law school thinks that he's a prick.

Yeah. You have to wonder if that doesn't undermine him in the long term as a political force. It really does seem that to know him is to loathe him, even if you are on the same side as him politically. So much of politics is about building networks and working connections that you have to wonder if doesn't end up burning too many bridges to be effective. Not that there haven't been plenty of loathsome people in politics before, but the successful ones usually have some ability to ply some kind of charm or charisma as a political tool.
posted by yoink at 5:32 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Federal judge strikes down Va. ban on gay marriage

"A federal judge in Norfolk struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage Thursday night, saying it violates the constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen stayed her decision so that it can be appealed, so same-sex marriages in the commonwealth will not begin immediately. Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D), who had switched the state’s legal position on the issue and joined two gay couples in asking the ban be struck down, has said the state will continue to enforce the ban until the legal process is over."
posted by rtha at 8:08 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Most gratifying: one more step toward equality.

2nd most gratifying: For the fourth time in as many months, SCALIA has been complicit in advancing the cause.

I mean seriously, given all he's done to try to thwart progress, it is so delicious to savor the thought that his name will forevermore be linked with the historic rollback of his own bigoted worldview. That's some grade A industrial karma, right there.
posted by darkstar at 10:16 AM on February 14


I'm pretty sure that he'll be happy with all this, as while he's a culture warrior, even more important to him is being right. So I think he'll be all "See? I told you so! *smirk*".
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:31 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


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