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, from courthouse proceedings to prison visits to the compensation of surviving spouses of public safety officers.In a new policy memo, the department will spell out the rights of same-sex couples, including the right to decline to give testimony that might incriminate their spouses, even if their marriages are not recognized in the state where the couple lives.
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In bankruptcy cases, same-sex married couples will be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly. Domestic support obligations will include debts, such as alimony, owed to a former same-sex spouse. Certain debts to same-sex spouses or former spouses should be excepted from discharge.
Source: Washington Post
Big announcement out of the Department of Justice today…
This is one of the predicted results of the U.S. v. Windsor case from last summer, and provides a little further clarification on some unanswered questions raised by that decision. While the DOJ instructions are not akin to law, it is safe to assume that judges won’t dismiss same-sex cases – particularly in states such as Wisconsin that still prohibit same-sex marriage (or, that such a judge would be over-ruled on appeal).
In the months since Windsor was issued, there have been no bankruptcy cases in Wisconsin that have answered whether a couple legally married in one state (such as Colorado) could move to Wisconsin (where same sex marriage is not recognized) and file a joint petition. In fact, there appear to be no bankruptcy cases addressing that question at all. Only one bankruptcy case presently cites Windsor, and the case is not on point.
The caveat remains that a same-sex couple must be legally married in another state before moving to Wisconsin, and that these protections are still limited to areas of federal jurisdiction.
But at least now legally-wed same-sex couples can feel confident in filing a joint bankruptcy petition in Wisconsin (and other states like it).