The Justice Department will recognize same-sex marriages "to the greatest extent possible under the law," U.S. Attorney U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a policy memo released Monday.
The government plans to expand recognition of same-sex marriages in federal legal matters such as bankruptcies, prison visits, and survivor benefits. Holder announced the coming policy change over the weekend.
The privileges will be extended to gay marriages even in states where same-sex marriage is illegal. Gay couples in the military would also be afforded the same benefits as heterosexual couples.
"This means that 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, the same protections, and the same rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law," Holder said.
Holder's action is the latest application of the Supreme Court's ruling last year that struck down a provision in the Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.