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Major victory achieved for same-sex couples rights

Recent current events are exemplified in the Bob Dylan song, The Times They Are a-Changin'. Gay couples in Massachusetts and the rest of the nation just achieved a major victory on a federal level. Officials with the attorney general's office announced a change to same-sex couples rights that will affect many areas of their lives.

The Justice Department is expected to issue a memo that substantially expands the rights of people in same-sex marriages -- increasing their recognition on a national level. The change will apply even in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage. It is only valid, however, when federal matters like bankruptcy and prison visits are concerned.

For example, if two women got married in Massachusetts and then moved to Indiana, they can now file federal bankruptcy together. This is true even though they are in a state that does not recognize their marriage as legally binding. They will now be treated with the same consideration given to a more traditional couple.

Several other areas are affected. Under the new policy, people with same-sex spouses who are incarcerated in a federal facility will be granted the same visitation as is afforded heterosexual couples. In both civil and criminal federal matters, spouses will be given equal rights regardless of the gender of their person to whom they are wed. This means one spouse cannot be compelled to testify in court against the other.

One major area that was not directly affected by the recent changes is same-sex divorce. In the fight for same-sex couples rights, divorce has yet to be adequately addressed. Even in states like Massachusetts, where gay divorce is legal, the issues surrounding the dissolution of a marriage rarely offer a simple solution. Understanding all the implications and how to best handle them is an integral part of successfully moving forward when a marriage ends -- regardless of the gender or genders involved.

Source: CNN, Feds to expand legal benefits, services for same-sex marriages, Evan Perez, Feb. 9, 2014

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