The Obama administration on Friday said
that it would recognize the more than 1,300 marriage licenses Utah
issued to gay and lesbian couples during the 17 days when such unions
were legal in the state.
“[F]or 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,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
Gay couples flooded county clerk
offices starting on December 20 after a federal judge struck down
Amendment 3, Utah's 2006 voter-approved constitutional amendment
limiting marriage to heterosexual couples. More than 2 weeks passed
before the Supreme Court put the judge's order on hold pending the
outcome of an appeal.
Then, on Wednesday, Governor Gary
Herbert announced that Utah would not recognize the marriages,
locking out those couples from state marriage benefits. The ACLU of
with a lawsuit and HRC, the nation's largest LGBT rights
advocate, asked the federal government and the 17 states where it is
legal for gay couples to marry to recognize the Utah marriages.
“These families should not be asked
to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation
unfolds,” Holder added. “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.”