News / USA

Recent Announcements Give Boost to Gay Rights Advocates

Recent Announcements Give Boost to Gay Rights Advocatesi
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February 11, 2014
A pair of high-profile announcements, one from the government and the other from an athlete, have bolstered gay rights advocates in the United States. VOA's Pam Dockins has the story.
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Pamela Dockins
A pair of high-profile announcements, one from the government and the other from an athlete, have bolstered gay rights advocates in the United States.

Married same-sex couples in the United States will be entitled to more benefits because of a new Justice Department policy, announced on Saturday, that expands federal recognition of same sex marriages.

The new guidelines will allow these couples, for example, to jointly file for bankruptcy and will give them more rights in the criminal justice system.  

"This policy has important real-world implications for same-sex married couples that interact with the criminal justice system," said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who heads the Justice Department. For instance, as a result of this policy, the Department will recognize that same-sex spouses of individuals involved in civil and criminal cases should have the same legal rights as all other married couples."

....such as the right not to testify against a spouse in court.

On Sunday a top college football player revealed that he's gay. The announcement from University of Missouri's Michael Sam could mean he'd become the first openly gay player on a National Football League team, if he's drafted.

First lady Michelle Obama praised Sam in a Tweet.

The NFL has put out a statement welcoming Sam. But there already is an anonymous chorus of NFL insiders saying the league is not ready.

Nevertheless, the Human Rights Campaign's Paul Guequierre said the two announcements show greater acceptance of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals.

"The American public has really embraced LGBT equality," he said. "We still have a lot of work to do, but these are two signs that we are on the right path."

But Chris Gacek of the conservative Family Research Council said the announcements do not indicate a widespread change in sentiment.  

"I think this sort of general argument that there is this great wave kind of sweeping over the country does not really strike me as true. I think most people still think of marriage as still being between a man and a woman," Gacek said.

Ultimately, experts say, it will be up to the U.S. Supreme Court to make a final decision, at least on gay marriage.

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