Federal government to recognize Utah same-sex marriages

WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Friday that the federal government would recognize hundreds of same-sex marriages that took place in Utah over the past three weeks, two days after Utah announced it did not consider the marriages to be legal.

Holder’s announcement left some 1,300 couples who rushed to marry after a federal District Court ruling on Dec. 20 in complicated legal limbo, with their marriages deemed valid for federal tax purposes but not for state taxes.

“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 in a videotaped statement. “These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds.”

A federal District Court judge had ruled the state ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional and refused to delay the implementation of his ruling while it was appealed, opening the courthouse door to surprised couples who had not expected such an opportunity anytime soon in a conservative state like Utah.

While the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to stop the marriages while hearing the state’s appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court last week put a stop to them at least until the 10th Circuit rules. The one-paragraph order from the justices did not explain their reasoning.

The state’s refusal to recognize the marriages will affect more than just their taxes, including access to their spouses’ health insurance plans and various legal protections.

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