The U.S. Justice Department has announced the widespread expansion of federal recognition of same sex marriages, even in states where such marriages are illegal.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced the changes at a dinner Saturday in New York sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign - a gay rights group.
Holder said the Justice Department will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages get the same rights, protections and privileges as heterosexual unions in every federal courthouse. This includes such matters as bankruptcy proceedings and visitation rights at federal prisons.
Holder plans to formally introduce the policy Monday.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said this a landmark announcement that will change the lives of committed gay and lesbian couples for the better.
The U.S. Supreme Court threw out the federal government's Defense of Marriage Act last year. That measure defined marriage as only being between a man and a woman.