Family Law

Same-sex marriages in Utah will be recognized by federal government, Holder says


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File photo of Eric Holder by Tony Avelar.

The federal government will recognize nearly 1,300 same-sex marriages performed in Utah in recent weeks, despite the state’s announcement that it would not confer legal status on those unions.

According to the New York Times, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Friday that the marriages would be “recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages.” Thousands of same-sex couples had flocked to county clerks offices in the state to obtain marriage licenses after U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage and ordered officials to issue licenses to same-sex couples on Dec. 20. Utah failed to convince the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to stay Shelby’s decision while it appealed the decision, however, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in and granted the stay on Monday. Two days later, Utah announced that it would not recognize the marriage licenses that were issued to same–sex couples.

The federal government, however, has refused to follow Utah’s lead. In his statement, Holder’s announcement cited the Supreme Court’s June ruling in United States v. Windsor as the rationale behind the Department of Justice’s decision to recognize the marriages as legal under federal law. Holder stated that the DOJ was “working tirelessly to implement [Windsor] in both letter and spirit.”

“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.

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