Feb. 10 (Bloomberg) — The Justice Department's push to extend legal protections to same-sex couples in civil and criminal matters is the latest example of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder leading second-term social policy for the administration of President Barack Obama.

Holder said in a speech in New York on Saturday that same-sex couples will receive many of the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. Under the guidelines to be released today, federal prosecutors won't object if a same-sex spouse declines to provide testimony that might incriminate his or her partner.

That policy shift is the most recent instance of Holder staking out the administration's views on contentious issues such as drug laws and voting rights. Last month, Holder's deputy James Cole urged defense lawyers to help the government identify imprisoned drug offenders who should win clemency because they were sentenced under stricter laws than exist today.

"The Justice Department's role in confronting discrimination must be as aggressive today as it was in Robert Kennedy's time," Holder said, citing a crusading predecessor in his speech as a model for an activist approach. "As Attorney General, I will never let this department be simply a bystander during this important moment in history. We will act."

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to BenefitsPRO, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical BenefitsPRO information including cutting edge post-reform success strategies, access to educational webcasts and videos, resources from industry leaders, and informative Newsletters.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM, BenefitsPRO magazine and BenefitsPRO.com events
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including ThinkAdvisor.com and Law.com

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.