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Justice Department Extends Benefits for Same-Sex Married Couples
eric holder

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

Earlier this week, the Justice Department extended more federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples, with Attorney General Eric Holder instructing his employees “to recognize lawful same-sex marriages as broadly as possible.” Gay and lesbian couples who have legally wed, including those currently living in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, can expect a host of new benefits. For instance, same-sex spouses of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty will be eligible for benefits through the Justice Department. Also, same-sex married couples will now be granted spousal privilege in court cases and criminal investigations, a rule that exempts spouses from being compelled to testify against each other. The benefits are far-reaching, ranging from federal prison visitations to the possibility of joint bankruptcy filings.

But is Holder out of step with the American public? Perhaps not, as half (50 percent) of all Americans favor requiring the federal government to recognize marriages between gay and lesbian couples performed in states where same-sex marriage is legal, while 4-in-10 (38 percent) are opposed. Opponents of same-sex marriage are much more likely to favor a state’s right to decide the issue (58 percent) than to say same-sex marriage should be decided at the national level (32 percent). Those who support same-sex marriage are almost a mirror image; 39 percent say the issue should be left up to the states and 55 percent prefer it be decided nationally.  (For more on this split, read Research Director Daniel Cox’s take at Huffington Post Politics.)

What do you think? Should the federal government limit these newly extended benefits to those couples living in states that have legalized same-sex marriage, or is the Justice Department right to include all legally wed gay and lesbian couples? Let us know in the comments.