Humanists for Social Justice and Environmental Action supports Human Rights, Social and Economic Justice, Environmental Activism and Planetary Ethics in North America & Globally, with particular reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other Human Rights UN treaties and conventions listed above.


Important update on our #SaveTheBees campaign | Sierra Club Canada

Important update on our #SaveTheBees campaign | Sierra Club Canada
Since PMRA has invited us to comment on the use of neonicotinoids, let’s let them know what we think! We have made it easy -- just click here, fill in the form and click “send”. For everything you need (scientific studies, media releases, etc.) visit our #SaveTheBees webpage.
Please note: Be sure to include your full mail address in the body of your submission or the PMRA will invalidate your submission.

 On September 19th, Sierra Club Canada and others filed an objection to PMRA’s decision to re-license Clothianidin -- a neonicotinoid pesticide made by Bayer. We’re using a complex legal action in the hope we can force a reversal of the decision.
Here's what happened over the summer. In July, the Ontario Premier convened a “Bee Health Working Group” to give her recommendations for action to protect bees and other pollinating insects. However, within days of the first meeting, beekeepers in Ontario began reporting bee deaths.
In early August, David Schuit of Elmwood Ontario lost several million bees and Ontario beekeeper Jim Coneybeare was forced to truck his hives several hours north to “bear country” just so they could forage away from neonicotinoid pesticides.
You’ll remember that back in the spring, Health Canada’s “Pest Management Regulation Agency” (PMRA) concluded neonicotinoids only present a problem “during spring planting” and went ahead on July 13th to quietly re-license Clothianidin (a neonicotinoid manufactured by Bayer) despite demands from beekeepers and Sierra Club Canada to ban bee-killing pesticides (we even sent the Health and Agriculture Ministers 20 scientific studies linking neonicotinoid pesticides with bee deaths).


Necessary and Proportionate Principles on Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance

Necessary and Proportionate Principles on Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance

International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance
(endorsed by the Ontario Humanist Society)

Final version 10 July 2013
As technologies that facilitate State surveillance of communications advance, States are failing to ensure that laws and regulations related to communications surveillance adhere to international human rights and adequately protect the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. This document attempts to explain how international human rights law applies in the current digital environment, particularly in light of the increase in and changes to communications surveillance technologies and techniques. These principles can provide civil society groups, industry, States and others with a framework to evaluate whether current or proposed surveillance laws and practices are consistent with human rights.
These principles are the outcome of a global consultation with civil society groups, industry and international experts in communications surveillance law, policy and technology.
Privacy is a fundamental human right, and is central to the maintenance of democratic societies. It is essential to human dignity and it reinforces other rights, such as freedom of expression and information, and freedom of association, and is recognised under international human rights law.[1] Activities that restrict the right to privacy, including communications surveillance, can only be justified when they are prescribed by law, they are necessary to achieve a legitimate aim, and are proportionate to the aim pursued.[2]
Before public adoption of the Internet, well-established legal principles and logistical burdens inherent in monitoring communications created limits to State communications surveillance. In recent decades, those logistical barriers to surveillance have decreased and the application of legal principles in new technological contexts has become unclear. The explosion of digital communications content and information about communications, or "communications metadata" -- information about an individual’s communications or use of electronic devices -- the falling cost of storing and mining large sets of data, and the provision of personal content through third party service providers make State surveillance possible at an unprecedented scale.[3] Meanwhile, conceptualisations of existing human rights law have not kept up with the modern and changing communications surveillance capabilities of the State, the ability of the State to combine and organize information gained from different surveillance techniques, or the increased sensitivity of the information available to be accessed.
The frequency with which States are seeking access to both communications content and communications metadata is rising dramatically, without adequate scrutiny.[4] When accessed and analysed, communications metadata may create a profile of an individual's life, including medical conditions, political and religious viewpoints, associations, interactions and interests, disclosing as much detail as, or even greater detail than would be discernible from the content of communications.[5] Despite the vast potential for intrusion into an individual’s life and the chilling effect on political and other associations, legislative and policy instruments often afford communications metadata a lower level of protection and do not place sufficient restrictions on how they can be subsequently used by agencies, including how they are data-mined, shared, and retained.
In order for States to actually meet their international human rights obligations in relation to communications surveillance, they must comply with the principles set out below. These principles apply to surveillance conducted within a State or extraterritorially. The principles also apply regardless of the purpose for the surveillance -- law enforcement, national security or any other regulatory purpose. They also apply both to the State’s obligation to respect and fulfil individuals’ rights, and also to the obligation to protect individuals’ rights from abuse by non-State actors, including corporate entities.[6] The private sector bears equal responsibility for respecting human rights, particularly given the key role it plays in designing, developing and disseminating technologies; enabling and providing communications; and - where required - cooperating with State surveillance activities. Nevertheless, the scope of the present Principles is limited to the obligations of the State.
Changing technology and definitions
"Communications surveillance" in the modern environment encompasses the monitoring, interception, collection, analysis, use, preservation and retention of, interference with, or access to information that includes, reflects, arises from or is about a person’s communications in the past, present or future. "Communications" include activities, interactions and transactions transmitted through electronic mediums, such as content of communications, the identity of the parties to the communications, location-tracking information including IP addresses, the time and duration of communications, and identifiers of communication equipment used in communications.
Traditionally, the invasiveness of communications surveillance has been evaluated on the basis of artificial and formalistic categories. Existing legal frameworks distinguish between "content" or "non-content," "subscriber information" or "metadata," stored data or in transit data, data held in the home or in the possession of a third party service provider.[7] However, these distinctions are no longer appropriate for measuring the degree of the intrusion that communications surveillance makes into individuals’ private lives and associations. While it has long been agreed that communications content deserves significant protection in law because of its capability to reveal sensitive information, it is now clear that other information arising from communications – metadata and other forms of non-content data – may reveal even more about an individual than the content itself, and thus deserves equivalent protection. Today, each of these types of information might, taken alone or analysed collectively, reveal a person’s identity, behaviour, associations, physical or medical conditions, race, color, sexual orientation, national origins, or viewpoints; or enable the mapping of the person’s location, movements or interactions over time,[8] or of all people in a given location, including around a public demonstration or other political event. As a result, all information that includes, reflects, arises from or is about a person’s communications and that is not readily available and easily accessible to the general public, should be considered to be "protected information", and should accordingly be given the highest protection in law.
In evaluating the invasiveness of State communications surveillance, it is necessary to consider both the potential of the surveillance to reveal protected information, as well as the purpose for which the information is sought by the State. Communications surveillance that will likely lead to the revelation of protected information that may place a person at risk of investigation, discrimination or violation of human rights will constitute a serious infringement on an individual’s right to privacy, and will also undermine the enjoyment of other fundamental rights, including the right to free expression, association, and political participation. This is because these rights require people to be able to communicate free from the chilling effect of government surveillance. A determination of both the character and potential uses of the information sought will thus be necessary in each specific case.
When adopting a new communications surveillance technique or expanding the scope of an existing technique, the State should ascertain whether the information likely to be procured falls within the ambit of "protected information" before seeking it, and should submit to the scrutiny of the judiciary or other democratic oversight mechanism. In considering whether information obtained through communications surveillance rises to the level of "protected information", the form as well as the scope and duration of the surveillance are relevant factors. Because pervasive or systematic monitoring has the capacity to reveal private information far in excess of its constituent parts, it can elevate surveillance of non-protected information to a level of invasiveness that demands strong protection.[9]
The determination of whether the State may conduct communications surveillance that interferes with protected information must be consistent with the following principles.
Legality: Any limitation to the right to privacy must be prescribed by law. The State must not adopt or implement a measure that interferes with the right to privacy in the absence of an existing publicly available legislative act, which meets a standard of clarity and precision that is sufficient to ensure that individuals have advance notice of and can foresee its application. Given the rate of technological changes, laws that limit the right to privacy should be subject to periodic review by means of a participatory legislative or regulatory process.
Legitimate Aim: Laws should only permit communications surveillance by specified State authorities to achieve a legitimate aim that corresponds to a predominantly important legal interest that is necessary in a democratic society. Any measure must not be applied in a manner which discriminates on the basis of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Necessity: Laws permitting communications surveillance by the State must limit surveillance to that which is strictly and demonstrably necessary to achieve a legitimate aim. Communications surveillance must only be conducted when it is the only means of achieving a legitimate aim, or, when there are multiple means, it is the means least likely to infringe upon human rights. The onus of establishing this justification, in judicial as well as in legislative processes, is on the State.
Adequacy: Any instance of communications surveillance authorised by law must be appropriate to fulfil the specific legitimate aim identified.
Proportionality: Communications surveillance should be regarded as a highly intrusive act that interferes with the rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and expression, threatening the foundations of a democratic society. Decisions about communications surveillance must be made by weighing the benefit sought to be achieved against the harm that would be caused to the individual’s rights and to other competing interests, and should involve a consideration of the sensitivity of the information and the severity of the infringement on the right to privacy.
Specifically, this requires that, if a State seeks access to or use of protected information obtained through communications surveillance in the context of a criminal investigation, it must establish to the competent, independent, and impartial judicial authority that:
  1. there is a high degree of probability that a serious crime has been or will be committed;
  2. evidence of such a crime would be obtained by accessing the protected information sought;
  3. other available less invasive investigative techniques have been exhausted;
  4. information accessed will be confined to that reasonably relevant to the crime alleged and any excess information collected will be promptly destroyed or returned; and
  5. information is accessed only by the specified authority and used for the purpose for which authorisation was given.
If the State seeks access to protected information through communication surveillance for a purpose that will not place a person at risk of criminal prosecution, investigation, discrimination or infringement of human rights, the State must establish to an independent, impartial, and competent authority:
  1. other available less invasive investigative techniques have been considered;
  2. information accessed will be confined to what is reasonably relevant and any excess information collected will be promptly destroyed or returned to the impacted individual; and
  3. information is accessed only by the specified authority and used for the purpose for which was authorisation was given.
Competent Judicial Authority: Determinations related to communications surveillance must be made by a competent judicial authority that is impartial and independent. The authority must be:
  1. separate from the authorities conducting communications surveillance;
  2. conversant in issues related to and competent to make judicial decisions about the legality of communications surveillance, the technologies used and human rights; and
  3. have adequate resources in exercising the functions assigned to them.
Due process: Due process requires that States respect and guarantee individuals’ human rights by ensuring that lawful procedures that govern any interference with human rights are properly enumerated in law, consistently practiced, and available to the general public. Specifically, in the determination on his or her human rights, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent, competent and impartial tribunal established by law,[10] except in cases of emergency when there is imminent risk of danger to human life. In such instances, retroactive authorisation must be sought within a reasonably practicable time period. Mere risk of flight or destruction of evidence shall never be considered as sufficient to justify retroactive authorisation.
User notification: Individuals should be notified of a decision authorising communications surveillance with enough time and information to enable them to appeal the decision, and should have access to the materials presented in support of the application for authorisation. Delay in notification is only justified in the following circumstances:
  1. Notification would seriously jeopardize the purpose for which the surveillance is authorised, or there is an imminent risk of danger to human life; or
  2. Authorisation to delay notification is granted by the competent judicial authority at the time that authorisation for surveillance is granted; and
  3. The individual affected is notified as soon as the risk is lifted or within a reasonably practicable time period, whichever is sooner, and in any event by the time the communications surveillance has been completed. The obligation to give notice rests with the State, but in the event the State fails to give notice, communications service providers shall be free to notify individuals of the communications surveillance, voluntarily or upon request.
Transparency: States should be transparent about the use and scope of communications surveillance techniques and powers. They should publish, at a minimum, aggregate information on the number of requests approved and rejected, a disaggregation of the requests by service provider and by investigation type and purpose. States should provide individuals with sufficient information to enable them to fully comprehend the scope, nature and application of the laws permitting communications surveillance. States should enable service providers to publish the procedures they apply when dealing with State communications surveillance, adhere to those procedures, and publish records of State communications surveillance.
Public oversight: States should establish independent oversight mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability of communications surveillance.[11] Oversight mechanisms should have the authority to access all potentially relevant information about State actions, including, where appropriate, access to secret or classified information; to assess whether the State is making legitimate use of its lawful capabilities; to evaluate whether the State has been transparently and accurately publishing information about the use and scope of communications surveillance techniques and powers; and to publish periodic reports and other information relevant to communications surveillance. Independent oversight mechanisms should be established in addition to any oversight already provided through another branch of government.
Integrity of communications and systems: In order to ensure the integrity, security and privacy of communications systems, and in recognition of the fact that compromising security for State purposes almost always compromises security more generally, States should not compel service providers or hardware or software vendors to build surveillance or monitoring capability into their systems, or to collect or retain particular information purely for State surveillance purposes. A priori data retention or collection should never be required of service providers. Individuals have the right to express themselves anonymously; States should therefore refrain from compelling the identification of users as a precondition for service provision.[12]
Safeguards for international cooperation: In response to changes in the flows of information, and in communications technologies and services, States may need to seek assistance from a foreign service provider. Accordingly, the mutual legal assistance treaties (MLATs) and other agreements entered into by States should ensure that, where the laws of more than one state could apply to communications surveillance, the available standard with the higher level of protection for individuals is applied. Where States seek assistance for law enforcement purposes, the principle of dual criminality should be applied. States may not use mutual legal assistance processes and foreign requests for protected information to circumvent domestic legal restrictions on communications surveillance. Mutual legal assistance processes and other agreements should be clearly documented, publicly available, and subject to guarantees of procedural fairness.
Safeguards against illegitimate access: States should enact legislation criminalising illegal communications surveillance by public or private actors. The law should provide sufficient and significant civil and criminal penalties, protections for whistle blowers, and avenues for redress by affected individuals. Laws should stipulate that any information obtained in a manner that is inconsistent with these principles is inadmissible as evidence in any proceeding, as is any evidence derivative of such information. States should also enact laws providing that, after material obtained through communications surveillance has been used for the purpose for which information was given, the material must be destroyed or returned to the individual.


Letters re Tarek Loubani and John Greyson: Amnesty International Canada

Take action to protect Individuals at Risk || Amnesty International Canada
Canadians Tarek Loubani and John Greyson are on hunger strike in protest at their continued detention in Egypt. On 14 September, the Public Prosecution extended their detention for a further 15 days following a brief investigation in Tora Prison.
Doctor Tarek Loubani and Professor John Greyson began their hunger strike, in which they will receive liquids but no food, on 16 September 2013. They continue to be held on charges of “violence”, “inciting violence” and “carrying weapons”, as well as “destroying public property”. They are being held alongside hundreds of Egyptians who were arrested during violence in Cairo on 16 August.
Amnesty International is concerned that, as with the hundreds of others arrested that day, Tarek Loubani and John Greyson have been accused of a broad array of offences without apparent consideration of their individual criminal responsibility.

Write a letter
Please send a letter written in English, Arabic or other language to the following people.
Interim President
Adly Mahmoud Mansour
Office of the President
Al Ittihadia Palace
Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +202 2 391 1441

Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Defence
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
Ministry of Defence
Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +202 2 290 6004
Fax/Phoneline: +202 2 291 6227

Salutation: Dear General

Public Prosecutor
Hesham Mohamed Zaki Barakat
Office of the Public Prosecutor
Supreme Court House, 1 “26 July” Road
Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +202 2 577 4716
+202 2 575 7165
(switched off after office hours, GMT+2)

Salutation: Dear Counsellor

New York Times Editorial Board: Harper Conservatives Aim To 'Guarantee Public Ignorance'

New York Times Editorial Board: Harper Conservatives Aim To 'Guarantee Public Ignorance'
The New York Times editorial board has accused the Harper government of seeking to "guarantee public ignorance" by muzzling federal scientists.
In a scathing piece published Sunday, the newspaper argues Harper Conservatives have tried to restrict publicly financed scientists from sharing information with the public, particularly research into climate change and "anything to do with Alberta tar sands — source of the diluted bitumen that would flow through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline."
The Times suggests Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to ensure the controversial Keystone project proceeds with no red flags from federal scientists.
"This is more than an attack on academic freedom. It is an attempt to guarantee public ignorance.
"It is also designed to make sure that nothing gets in the way of the northern resource rush — the feverish effort to mine the earth and the ocean with little regard for environmental consequences. The Harper policy seems designed to make sure that the tar sands project proceeds quietly, with no surprises, no bad news, no alarms from government scientists. To all the other kinds of pollution the tar sands will yield, we must now add another: the degradation of vital streams of research and information."
The editorial comes just days after hundreds of frustrated scientists rallied on Parliament Hill and in cities across Canada to demand the Harper government stop muzzling scientists and cutting research funding.
The "Stand Up for Science" protests were organized by advocacy group, Evidence for Democracy, which maintains the Harper government is basing decisions on ideology, not evidence.
"The facts do not change just because the Harper government has chosen ignorance over evidence and ideology over honesty," said Jeremy Kerr, a biology professor at the University of Ottawa, to a crowd in the nation's capital.
There have been multiple reports — many of which are documented in HuffPost Canada's "Stifling Science" feature — of the Tory government attempting to restrict what scientists and other civil servants can say to the media.
The Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria and the ethics advocacy group Democracy Watch has cited multiple examples of taxpayer-funded science being suppressed or limited to pre-packaged media lines across six different government departments and agencies.
The Conservatives also sparked chatter this spring when Gary Goodyear, then-minister of state for science and technology, ordered the National Research Council to focus more on commercial science and less on fundamental science that may not have obvious business applications.
Council president John McDougall said the shift in focus away from basic research and discovery to a more targeted approach to research and development will make the NRC a more attractive partner for business.
"A new idea or discovery may in fact be interesting, but it doesn't qualify as innovation until it's been developed into something that has commercial or societal value," he said.

In 1981, the United Nations General Assembly, by unanimous vote, adopted Resolution 36/67 establishing the International Day of Peace (IDP) which stated in part, “…to devote a specific time to concentrate the efforts of the United Nations and its Member States, as well as the whole of mankind, to promoting the ideals of peace and to giving positive evidence of their commitment to peace in all viable ways.” The first Peace Day was celebrated in September 1982 on the opening day of the General Assembly.

International Day of Peace - US/UN

US residents: Today is the International Day of Peace, and we're honoring those who dedicate their lives to peace: United Nations peacekeepers. We still need 1,000 people to sign the thank you card that we'll deliver to peacekeepers serving around the world – help us reach our goal of 30,000 signatures by adding your name! From Haiti to Mali to Afghanistan, more than 113,000 UN peacekeepers are working to bring peace and stability back to regions torn apart by violence. They've left their homes behind to protect civilians and restore democracy in some of the most dangerous places in the world, and unfortunately, some have even lost their lives: 61 peacekeepers have been killed so far this year alone. For their service, sacrifice, and willingness to go where others cannot – or will not – they deserve our thanks. This International Day of Peace, show your appreciation for UN peacekeepers' life-saving work by signing their card – and you can even add a note if you'd like.


Creed - Human Rights Survey

Creed Human Rights Survey
The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is updating its 1996 Policy on Creed and the Accommodation of Religious Observances. The aim of this survey is to hear from individuals, religious and other community members, employers and other groups on what creed means, peoples’ experiences of discrimination based on creed, its root causes, as well as challenges and success stories for accommodating creed beliefs and practices.

For more detailed discussion of these and other issues, see Human rights and creed: emerging issues. Your responses to this survey will help us as we revise the policy.

NOTE: By submitting this survey, you are agreeing to our collection and use of your responses. The OHRC is committed to protecting your privacy and personal information. Survey responses will only be reported on in the aggregate to protect and maintain individual anonymity (i.e. no individuals or specific organizations will be identified in OHRC analysis and reporting of survey results). 

| Luis Moreno Ocampo: Between bombing and doing nothing

Between Bombing or Doing Nothing | Luis Moreno Ocampo

an  important analysis:

There is a global agreement regarding the problem: Crimes against humanity are being committed in Syria that could easily destabilize the entire region. There is also consensus that it is urgent to stop the violence. Should the world ignore the crimes the entire Middle East could become a battlefield setting a precedent for the use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists anywhere in the world. However, the global community is divided on the solution to the problem. There may be an efficient and collective solution.

In February 2012 the UN Security Council and the Arab League appointed Kofi Annan to facilitate negotiations. But very soon the hardliners prevailed and eliminating the enemy became the only proposal. Eighteen months and 100,000 deaths later, six million people have been displaced and chemical weapons have been used; the world is now discussing military interventions.

But Russia and China will likely veto a UN Security Resolution authorizing the use of military forces. Even the Arab League, while demanding to the UN Security Council "to take the necessary measures," has fallen short of recommending the use of military forces. The UK Parliament refused to accept British engagement in military operations. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a limited use of force.

In 2010, President Obama stated that "preventing mass atrocities is a responsibility that all nations share." His leadership and U.S. military power could be more efficient if they are supported by an international consensus.
What could be the terms of such an international consensus?

The Arab League is proposing an option that could be the foundation of an agreement: they suggest making those responsible for those crimes accountable before the international community. The Security Council took similar approaches previously and it could do it again. It created international ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and it referred to the permanent International Criminal Court the Darfur and Libya situation. Those in Syria who order the crimes should be prosecuted. The International Criminal Court is ready to provide the independent judiciary required.
It could be effective. Leaders in Syria are ordering massive crimes to retain or to gain power. If they evaluate that they conclusively would end in a prison at The Hague, they will stop.

But to be an effective option for halting the crimes against humanity, the international justice path should be refined and improved. There should be a strategy integrating justice with military efforts and political negotiations, a strategy that was lacking in the past. Justice could be a way to promote behavior change without involving the UN Security Council in 'regime change.' Four conditions are necessary to make the international justice path successful.

First, it will be necessary to find a common position with Russia. Russia has used its veto power at the UN Security Council to oppose opening the door for military interventions and regime change, but Russia is not against justice. On the contrary, Russia, a founder of international justice at Nuremberg, signed the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court and voted in favor to provide jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court in Darfur and Libya situation. Furthermore, on July 2012 Russia presented a draft UN Security Council Resolution "[c]ondemning the widespread violations of human rights by the Syrian authorities, as well as any human rights abuses by armed groups" highlighting the importance to prosecute also rebels that committed crimes and "recalling that those responsible shall be held accountable."

Second, it will be necessary to find an agreement with China. The Arab League request can facilitate such agreement. China has always been consistent in taking into consideration the position of the regional organizations. International justice is not part of China's agenda but Beijing will harmonize its position if there is a general agreement. China's valuing of harmony and regional consensus is demonstrated in its decisions to abstain -- instead of vetoing -- the Security Council's referral of Darfur to the International Criminal Court and its vote in favor of a similar referral in the Libya case.

Third, the temporal jurisdiction should be thoroughly discussed by UN Security Council members. They have options. They can request that ICC investigations start from the beginning of the Syria conflict or establish a deadline in the near future that will trigger the jurisdiction of the Court. Such a timeframe could provide an incentive to begin a different style of negotiations to end the conflict.
Should the conflict effectively stop before the deadline, the national leadership could discuss adequate ways to promote justice for the past. It will be a challenge for negotiators to include accountability as a part of the political agreement but it will be the only guarantee that the leadership are not involved in new crimes.

Fourth, in order to have an impact, the referral to the International Criminal Court should include references on how to execute arrest warrants. Without enforcement, the threat of prosecution would be toothless. Security Council members should define the framework and political constraints of such arrest operations. In the case of the former Yugoslavia in 1996-1998, a coalition of countries spent months planning the modalities of arresting individuals during the conflict. This time the military should adjust and plan innovative arrest operations of criminals, in accordance with the limits imposed by the UN Security Council. The simple possibility to execute arrest warrants will change the tone of the negotiations.

"Never again" has been an unfulfilled promise. The Syrian conflict offers the world an opportunity: to find an innovative response to establish global order. Today's leaders could make our children safer. Or not.


Federal Tax System Will Recognize Married Gay Couples Even If Their States Do Not |

Federal Tax System Will Recognize Married Gay Couples Even If Their States Do Not | TPM LiveWire
The U.S. federal tax system will recognize gay couples' marriages even if they live in a state where gay marriage is not legal, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced in a statement Thursday.
This ruling, which creates a uniform policy for the IRS, "assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement.
Prior to the ruling, if a gay couple married in Connecticut, for example, and moved to New Jersey, they would no longer be recognized as married for tax purposes. Now, the state where the wedding took place takes precedence over the state of residence.
“With today’s ruling, committed and loving gay and lesbian married couples will now be treated equally under our nation’s federal tax laws, regardless of what state they call home,” said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin in a statement. “These families finally have access to crucial tax benefits and protections previously denied to them under the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.”