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The White House administration said it would grant same sex couples who are married legally the same status as other couples who are married with regards to federal legal matters. That included prisoner visitation, death benefits for police officers killed and bankruptcy proceedings, said Eric Holder the Attorney General.

Holder said the Department of Justice would issue updated instructions to employees on Monday that will extend the same protections afforded married heterosexual couples. Holder made that announcement during a speech to the Human Rights Campaign in New York. The HRC is a large gay-rights advocacy organization.

The move by the Obama administration is one in a series to give equal rights to those in same-sex marriage that are legal. It comes following the decision in 2013 by the Supreme Court striking down a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a man and a woman.

The Department of Justice has been busy reviewing the federal regulation and rules to see what if anything could be changed without the need of new legislation by Congress.

In January, Holder announced the Justice Department would recognize married couples of the same-sex in Utah, prior to the gay unions being halted their by the Supreme Court. Seventeen states as well as the District of Columbia have declared gay marriages legal.

Same-sex marriage opponents argue that the Obama administration should allow Congress to first pass legislation that allows recognition at the federal level of gay marriages in the states where the marriages are legal.

Holder, in a number of speeches has compared the efforts currently of extending rights to gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual Americans to the struggles of the civil rights movement 50 years ago by African-Americans

The new guidelines in the policy at the Justice Department will treat spouses of same-sex couples in criminal and civil federal cases the same way as all other married couples. Spouses in same-sex marriages can refuse to testify against a spouse. The couples can also file for bankruptcy jointly.

The spouses in same sex marriages will also received the same visitation rights as inmates in a heterosexual marriage.