USA: davantage de droits pour les couples gays devant la justice fédérale

>> Justice Department to give married same-sex couples equal protection

Le ministre américain de la justice, Eric Holder, a annoncé samedi 8 février à New York que les homosexuels américains mariés pourront désormais prétendre devant les tribunaux fédéraux aux mêmes droits que les couples hétérosexuels, droits qui seront précisés dans une circulaire distribuée lundi.

En vertu de ces nouvelles règles, les couples homosexuels pourront jouir de ces droits même dans les Etats ne reconnaissant pas leur mariage, à condition toutefois qu’ils aient été mariés dans un autre Etat.

« Dans tous les tribunaux, dans toutes les procédures, dans tous les lieux où un membre du ministère de la justice représente les Etats-Unis, ce représentant devra s’assurer que les couples de même sexe bénéficient des mêmes privilèges, protections et droits que les couples hétérosexuels mariés », indique le texte.


Ainsi, les détenus des prisons fédérales, comme les couples hétérosexuels, auront droit aux visites de leur conjoint, à une correspondance, pourront assister à ses obsèques ou bénéficieront de réductions de peines en cas de maladie du conjoint.

Un couple homosexuel pourra présenter un dossier commun de banqueroute et bénéficier de dispositions comme la pension alimentaire ou encore des allocations en cas de veuvage pour les pompiers et les policiers tués en service.

« Cette annonce historique va transformer, pour le meilleur, la vie de nombreux couples homosexuels », s’est réjoui Chad Griffin, président de Human Rights Campaign. Cette décision a été en revanche critiquée par des groupes conservateurs comme le Family Research Council, qui l’a qualifiée d’« illustration du manque de respect des lois de cette administration ».

Le mariage gay n’est pas reconnu au niveau fédéral aux Etats-Unis, où les lois relatives au mariage relèvent des Etats. Il est pour le moment légal dans dix-sept Etats, en plus de la capitale Washington.

>> Les homosexuels américains mariés pourront dès lundi prétendre devant les tribunaux fédéraux aux mêmes droits que les couples hétérosexuels, comme les visites en prison ou le droit de ne pas témoigner contre son conjoint. Une circulaire sera distribuée lundi détaillant les droits auxquels les couples homosexuels mariés ont droit, même si leur mariage n’est pas reconnu dans leur Etat, indique le ministère de la Justice. Le mariage gay n’est pas reconnu au niveau fédéral aux Etats-Unis, où les lois relatives au mariage relèvent des Etats. Il est pour le moment légal dans 17 Etats plus la capitale Washington.

>> WASHINGTON — The federal government will soon treat married same-sex couples the same as heterosexual couples when they file for bankruptcy, testify in court or visit family in prison.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. was preparing to issue policies aimed at eliminating the distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex married couples in the federal criminal justice system, according to a speech given at a Saturday event organized by a prominent gay-rights group.

“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,” Mr. Holder’s said.

The changes were set in motion last year when the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to refuse federal benefits to married same-sex couples, a ruling that Mr. Holder supported.
Related Coverage

Terry Hueneke, left, and Michael J. Ross, who married in 2013, may benefit from filing their taxes jointly. But they say they are prepared to pay higher taxes one day, if the rules require a so-called marriage penalty. “I think we shouldn’t be in any different situation than any other married couple facing that possibility,” Mr. Ross said.

Gay-rights advocates welcomed the changes but had hoped Mr. Holder would use his address before the Human Rights Campaign to announce that the president would sign an order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation.

“That would be big,” said Gary Buseck, legal director for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.

Since the Supreme Court ruling in June, the Obama administration has rewritten federal rules to allow same-sex couples to file taxes together and receive Medicare and other benefits reserved for married couples. Mr. Holder has been the public face of those efforts and has made championing gay rights one of the central messages of his tenure.

“These issues are very much at the center of this administration’s civil rights legacy,” said Ian S. Thompson, who works on gay and lesbian issues for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington.

Speaking before Sweden’s Parliament a few days ago, Mr. Holder called fighting for gay and lesbian rights one of “the defining civil rights challenges of our time.”

The remarks on Saturday by Mr. Holder, the first black attorney general, cast the gay-rights movement as a continuation of the civil rights efforts of the 1960s.

“As all-important as the fight against racial discrimination was then, and remains today, know this: My commitment to confronting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity runs just as deep,” he said.

The government estimates that more than 1,100 federal regulations, rights and laws touch on, or are affected by, marital status. With a memo on Monday, Mr. Holder plans to make several of those provisions apply equally to gay and straight couples.

In court cases and criminal investigations, for example, same-sex couples will be covered under what is known as the spousal privilege, a rule that says spouses cannot be forced to testify against each other. The Bureau of Prisons will extend the same visitation rights to married same-sex couples that it does to opposite-sex couples, Mr. Holder said.

The Justice Department will also recognize same-sex couples when determining eligibility for programs like the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which pays people who were injured or made sick by the 2001 terrorist attacks. Same-sex spouses of police killed in the line of duty will also be eligible for federal benefits.

The federal rules have no effect on state laws. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages.

Challenges to bans on same-sex marriage are under way in several states, including Utah. A federal judge there said in December that the state’s ban was unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court put that decision on hold while an appeal played out.

Between those rulings, about 1,300 couples got marriage licenses in Utah. Last month, Mr. Holder said the federal government would recognize those marriages.

Opponents of same-sex marriage accused Mr. Holder of overstepping his authority in that case. Mr. Buseck, meanwhile, said the Obama administration could do more, such as the executive order on discrimination, to leave a civil rights legacy.