Federal government will recognize Utah same-sex marriages even if state won’t

By David Ferguson
Friday, January 10, 2014 14:08 EDT
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Eric Holder via screencap
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The Obama administration announced on Friday that the U.S. federal government will recognize the marriages of the 1,300 same-sex couples who were married in Utah since December, even if the state will not.

The New York Times reported that Attorney General Eric Holder released a video on Friday declaring that the federal government will grant full marriage benefits to same-sex couples who married in the wake of a federal judge’s decision to strike down the state’s ban on same-sex marriages.

“I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages,” Holder said. “These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds.”

Because of an error in the way the state of Utah handled the recent same-sex marriage case, no immediate stay was issued in the wake of the federal court’s decision that Utah’s anti-same-sex marriage legislation was unconstitutional. As a result, same-sex couples — in some cases literally — ran to their local courthouses to get married.

On Wednesday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R)’s office announced that the state will not recognize the 1,300 same sex marriages performed in the state since the court decision. Utah Republicans plan to appeal the federal court’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued a stay on same-sex marriages in the state.

“The original laws governing marriage in Utah return to effect pending final resolution by the courts,” wrote Herbert spokesperson Derek Miller in a memo to state employees.

“It is important to understand that those laws include not only a prohibition of performing same-sex marriages but also recognizing same-sex marriages,” Miller explained.

Holder, on the other hand, cited the Supreme Court’s historic rulings from the summer in which the federal anti-LGBT law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down as unconstitutional. The court also dismissed an attempt to reinstate California’s Proposition 8, another anti-same-sex marriage statute.

“This ruling marked an historic step toward equality for all Americans,” Holder said, and promised that the federal government will do everything in its power to accommodate the couples and award them the benefits they are due.

“In the days ahead, we will continue to coordinate across the federal government to ensure the timely provision of every federal benefit to which Utah couples and couples throughout the country are entitled — regardless of whether they are in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages,” Holder said. “And we will continue to provide additional information as soon as it becomes available.”

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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