Obama administration will recognize same-sex marriages in Utah

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By Bill Mears and Evan Perez

(CNN) -- The Justice Department announced Friday it will recognize -- for federal purposes -- same-sex marriages performed for a short period in Utah.

The state on Wednesday said it would not recognize the approximately 1,000 marriages or marriage licenses issued for gay and lesbian couples, at least until the issue is fully resolved in the courts.

"These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a videotaped message.

"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 in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages," he added.

The federal government's decision will likely create more legal chaos over the constitutionality of same-sex marriage that is playing out in Utah, and several other states.

The Supreme Court last year said gay and lesbian couples legally married in their states were entitled to the same federal benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex partners.

The office of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert had sent a letter to Cabinet officials Wednesday saying that, based on advice from the state's attorney general, "state recognition of same-sex marital status is on hold until further notice.

"Please understand this position is not intended to comment on the legal status of those same-sex marriages -- that is for the courts to decide," the governor's chief of staff, Derek Miller, wrote. "The intent of this communication is to direct state agency compliance with current laws that prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages."

The current legal and political fight erupted December 20 when U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby concluded Utah's law banning same-sex marriage, approved in 2004, conflicted with the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process. That prompted many counties to begin issuing marriage licenses, but the state then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The justices on Monday blocked enforcement of the district court ruling until the constitutional questions are fully resolved. A federal appeals court could hold oral arguments as soon as March. A ruling there could affect all states within the court's jurisdiction: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

But Holder said, "In the meantime, 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's full statement can be read below:

Last June, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision – in United States v. Windsor – holding that Americans in same-sex marriages are entitled to equal protection and equal treatment under the law. This ruling marked a historic step toward equality for all American families. And since the day it was handed down, the Department of Justice has been working tirelessly to implement it in both letter and spirit—moving to extend—federal benefits to married same-sex couples as swiftly and smoothly as possible.

Recently, an administrative step by the Court has cast doubt on same-sex marriages that have been performed in the state of Utah. And the governor has announced that the state will not recognize these marriages pending additional Court action.

In the meantime, 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. These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds. 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. And we will continue to provide additional information as soon as it becomes available.

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15 comments

  • Eric Anderson

    The governor and the AG are doing their jobs. The Amendment takes Utah’s courts out of the equation, and the Executive branch is charged with enforcing and defending the law. When the Federal court ruled against the Amendment, the governor and AG immediately complied. Then the Supreme Court stayed the ruling, and implied that they will hear the case. The governor and AG fell back on the stated will of the citizens.

    I’d hate to think that we have an Executive Branch that ignores the law on a whim.

    The Federal government, on the other hand, is taking the position that the Federal court ruling stands until a higher court says otherwise.

    Everyone is doing what they’re being paid to do, so far.

    So relax. Some of you liberals need to take a basic civics course. If the rule of law does not apply, then arbitrary government can work against YOU just as easily.

  • Anne Alisa

    you see i knew from the beginning that when i voted for obama twice in a roll. That he is a great president for our people..he thinks and does things for everyone and has a open mind.what do i love about him? he is not judgmental and helps out all of us…he will always be number in my book as my president..i still have his presidential candidate poster of him of “yes we can!! on my wall…we love you, President Obama :)

  • Mike

    What I believe is that a man and women are to be married. I am glad to have a governor that sticks up for what is right.Our President of the nation does not care what we voters believe. I am proud of my beliefs. It sickens me to see how far we have come to immoral practices.

  • Nurses of America

    Remember when Sodom and Gomorrah and Capernaum were burned to the ground by God because of homosexuality? Then He spread diseases, famines and wars throughout the land? It’s happening again today people.

  • Mobious One

    I’m getting awfully tired of bible-thumpers always throwing in their 2 cents on this. Nobody cares about what your imaginary friend thinks about real life issues. I am so glad to see that atheism is on the rise and Christianity is on the decline. It’s nice to see that people are finally waking up and resisting the brainwashing from a fictional book and are accepting fact, science, logic and reason. I find it sad that people waste their lives trying to live up to the expectations of a god that doesn’t exist. What I find even more sad is that they try to control/restrict the lives of others with this garbage. It’s insane to think that so many people waste brain power worrying about the lives of LGBT strangers. Get over yourselves. If you want to believe in imaginary friends, fine… But keep it to yourself. Nobody cares about your myths and superstitions from a book of fiction.

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