GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (February 9, 2014) – In a landmark win for gay rights, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the U.S. government will recognize same-sex marriages in federal legal matters, meaning, same-sex marriages will receive all of the benefits as traditional marriages, including rights in bankruptcies, prison visits, and survivor benefits, even in the 34 states that do not recognize same-sex marriage.
“Whether somebody believes that it’s a sin or not, it doesn’t matter; what matters is love, and what matters is what we’re teaching the children, and we’ve been doing it wrong for a long time,” says James Garnant of Grand Rapids, a stepfather.
In his speech at the Human Rights Campaign Gala in New York City late Saturday night, Holder said the U.S. Justice Department will never stop working to ensure that equality under the law is protected by the law. Holder called LGBT equality “a defining civil rights challenge of our time.”
“Already, my colleagues and I have announced the extension of significant benefits to Americans in same-sex marriages, including health insurance and other key benefits for federal employees and their families; a uniform policy ensuring that all same-sex married couples are recognized for federal tax purposes; and a policy dictating that, for purposes of immigration law, same-sex and opposite-sex marriages are treated exactly the same,” explained Holder.
A stepfather of two boys, Garnant says when the state of Michigan doesn’t legally validate his relationship with his partner, it teaches children that homosexuals are “less than” and spurs bullying and suicides.
“In our own family, how much we show up for the kids and teach them and encourage them and punish them when we have to and love them, you’re not just a boyfriend, you’re a stepfather,” added Garnant.
Others agree that marriage equality is a basic human right, therefore, a federal issue. “It means you’re a human being, that you’re an actual American, a United States citizen,” says Dr. Matthew Clark, a clinical psychologist in Grand Rapids. “It’s similar to the things that Kennedy fought for in the ‘60’s, similar, I believe, to the things that occurred in Nazi Germany, the travesties that are occurring right now in Russia. I think it’s all interrelated to seeing people of the LGBT community as not-equal human beings.”
But opponents say the federal government is undermining the authority and sovereignty of states. “We do believe this is yet another example of the lawlessness of the Obama administration, and as going well beyond what any court has required, or what any statute says, and instead pushing their own liberal ideological agenda,” says Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies with the Family Research Council.
This is the latest effect of the Supreme Court ruling that overturned part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage to be heterosexual. Yet many, no matter what side they favor, say this is much deeper than marriage.
Holder said the Justice Department will issue a memorandum Monday, recognizing same-sex marriage “to the greatest extent possible under the law.”