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New Federal Government Policy Impacts Gay Couples

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement that the federal government is expanding its recognition of same sex couples received applause and cheers in some circles.

At a Human Rights Campaign dinner In New York City Saturday night, Holder unveiled the policy, "That will for the first time in history, formally instruct all justice department employees to give lawful, same sex marriages full and equal recognition to the greatest extent possible under the law."

In other circles, the news received jeers.

Cathie Adams, President of the Texas Eagle Forum, a social conservative organziation said, "This is an over-reach by the federal government into the states' business."

The new rules are spelled-out in a memo the Attorney General sent to all Justice Department employees Monday.

It says same sex spouses will no longer be compelled to testify against each other in federal court.

They'll also be able to file for bankruptcy as a couple.

In addition, federal inmates in same-sex marriages will be allowed visitation by their spouse and to attend a spouse's funeral among other things.

State courts are not impacted.

Randy Ray is a Dallas attorney and says this is very personal to him. "This is a long-time coming. I've been in a relationship for almost 28 years, and got married in Canada with my partner, so it is real."

The policy doesn't apply to all same-sex couples in Texas, which doesn't recognize same-sex marriages.

Holder makes clear it pertains to only those couples now living in the Lone Star State who were married in other states that recognize same-sex marriages.

It doesn't apply to civil unions or partners.

Ray says, "So for a couple that takes advantage of getting married in a state that recognizes same sex marriages, that's going to be valid for federal purposes. If you're in a state that doesn't recognize marriage, and you don't go to another state to get married, you're not going to have federal benefits."

Adams strongly opposes the federal government's new policy. "By changing a part of what happens within a state, is really an attempt to over-turn the will of the people in that state."

The Justice Department's new policy stems from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year.

The Justices struck down a part of the Defense of Marriage Act which defined marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

The ruling applied to legally married same-sex couples who requested federal benefits.

Follow Jack on Twitter: @cbs11jack

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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