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Gay couples now have the right to invoke “marital privilege,” meaning they can’t be forced to testify against their spouse in court, even in states that do not currently permit same-sex marriage.
Under the new guidelines, same-sex couples can now also jointly file for bankruptcy, and they will be allowed the same visitation rights as their heterosexual counterparts at the nation’s federal prisons.
"In every courthouse, in every proceeding, and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States, they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections, and rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law," Holder said on Saturday.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia now allow same-sex couples to get married. In states that do not allow same-sex marriage, spousal privilege for same-sex couples is not guaranteed.
Monday, one more state appeared to be on the path to allow gay couples to legally marry. Holder said Nevada dropped its defense of the state's gay marriage ban, citing a change in the legal landscape.
Al Jazeera. Lisa De Bode contributed to this report.