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Justice Department embraces same-sex marriage decision

We frequently write about the fact that when individuals are arrested and even when they are convicted of criminal wrongdoing, they retain many important rights granted to them by the Constitution and by other tried and tested laws. In fact, many of these legal rights help to ensure that individuals are allowed to mount a full and fair criminal defense once they have been arrested and charged with criminal wrongdoing.

One legal protection that has generally been treated as sacred within the criminal justice system holds that spouses may not be compelled to testify against their spouses during criminal proceedings. This is arguably a protection that is just as important as physician-patient confidentiality and attorney-client privilege are. Thankfully, the Justice Department recently announced that it recognizes this right when applied to same-sex marriages.

In this day and age, it can be difficult to know how traditional marital protections will be applied to same-sex couples, especially because some states recognize these unions while others do not. However, the Justice Department has now explicitly insisted that married same-sex couples may not be forced to testify against one another. In addition, federal inmates who are granted privileges based upon their marriages must be treated equally whether their marriages are heterosexual or homosexual unions.

This is an important advancement for homosexual individuals who are accused of criminal wrongdoing and homosexual individuals who must serve time for federal crimes. The Justice Department's recent decision underscores the idea that individuals are entitled to certain rights regardless of whether they are in the criminal justice system and regardless of whom they choose to marry.

Source: ABC News, "Holder Applies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling to Justice," Pete Yost, Feb. 8, 2014

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