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Federal directive benefits married same-sex couples in Florida

Over the past several months, we have covered a number of developments in the arena of LGBT family law. Progress in this regard has moved very quickly in some ways, but has lagged in others. However, a recent announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice has been seen by many observers as an important step forward for married same-sex couples nationwide.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government will now extend full protection and recognition to married same-sex partners. This doesn't overturn state-by-state marriage laws, but does apply to legally married couples living in any state.

According to this declaration, Florida same-sex couples who were married in a state where unions are legal will be afforded a number of protections not previously available. Namely, hospital visitation privileges have been extended to all married couples. This is a basic -- but important -- ability that wasn't previously granted to LGBT partners.

Beyond hospital visitation, there are a number of other important medical-related issues that could be impacted by Florida law's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages. Namely, same-sex partners might not be granted the ability to make important medical decisions for each other. As such, it may still be necessary to take precautions by formulating the relevant legal documents.

Holder's decision also included a number of other legal matters, such as the ability to jointly file for bankruptcy and partake in prison visitation.

Although this is welcome news in terms of LGBT rights, there may be some limitations to the recent declaration. The U.S. Department of Justice only has jurisdiction over federal matters, so certain concerns may still be governed by state law. For the time being, Florida's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage will continue to create complications. As such, it may be helpful for Floridians to determine exactly what this federal proclamation means for them.

Source: WJCT News, "With Memo, Married Same-Sex Couples In Florida Get Federal Protections," Patrick Donges and Melissa Ross, Feb. 11, 2014

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