Utah: Obama recognizes same-sex marriages
The Obama administration said today it will recognize same-sex marriages in Utah - even though the state will not do so - and will provide federal benefits to about 1,400 gay couples who wed there before the Supreme Court halted the nuptials this week.
President Barack Obama's Justice Department took the step two days after Gary Herbert, the Republican governor of the conservative, predominantly Mormon state, said Utah would not recognize, at least for now, the marriages of gay couples who rushed to wed after a federal judge's December 20 ruling briefly allowed such marriages.
"These marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages," US Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
"These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds," Holder said.
The National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriages, condemned Holder's move as an overreach of federal authority.
"It is outrageous that the Justice Department would move so brazenly and publicly to undermine Utah's standing constitutional provision regulating marriage as the union of one man and one woman," Brian Brown, the group's president, said in a statement.
"It is the right of states to determine marriage, and the voters and legislature of Utah have done just that," he said.
Utah temporarily became the 18th US state to have same-sex weddings when US District Judge Robert Shelby ruled last month that a voter-passed amendment to the state's constitution that defined marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman was unconstitutional.
The US Supreme Court on Monday put that lower-court ruling on hold, at the request of Utah officials, halting gay weddings in Utah while the state appeals Shelby's decision to the Denver-based 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
Gay rights advocates sent a letter to Holder on Thursday asking for federal recognition of same-sex marriages that had been performed in Utah, and for the benefits such as tax breaks that go along with official legal status.