The Department of Justice issued a memo on Monday ordering all federal employees to "recognize lawful same-sex marriages as broadly as possible" under federal law. The announcement, previewed by Attorney General Eric Holder over the weekend, means that legally-married same-sex couples will now be treated on a federal level just like any other married couple in almost any situation. In many cases, that's even if the couple resides in a state that does not recognize their marriage, as long as it was originally performed in a jurisdiction where it's legal.
The memo (printed below) clarifies how a number of federal departments will handle the Supreme Court's Windsor decision, which struck down a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. For example, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) will now allow same-sex spouses to carry on with firearms or explosives businesses in the event of the licensed individual's death. Same-sex couples are also eligible to file for bankruptcy just like a straight, married couple. And any policy from the Bureau of Prisons affected by marital status — for instance, next-of-kin notification and visiting privileges — will apply equally to same-sex married couples at federal facilities. The DoJ itself promised to equally enforce criminal regulations and statutes that depend on marital status. Those include laws barring entering into a marriage purely as a loophole to U.S. immigration law, conflict of interest policies, and laws against trying to influence a federal official by threatening his or her family members.