January 10th, 2014
12:01 PM ET
11 months ago

Breaking: Obama administration will recognize same-sex marriages in Utah

(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."


Filed under: Same-sex marriage • Utah
soundoff (117 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    Bwahahaha! Someone, quick, get rid of that pesky due process stuff before it really starts causing problems!!!

    January 10, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  2. Debbie

    Federal law trumps State Law. Personally, I would like to see the land of Mormon secede. Waste and drag on the rest of The Union.

    January 10, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  3. bob

    Praise be to common sense.

    January 10, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  4. sly

    Thank you President Obama for making the wise choice here.

    Lawyers can do their thing, but not at the expense of American's lives – marriage is one of the most important things in a life and we don't need to subject people's marriages to legal manuevering.

    January 10, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Right on Obama!

    January 10, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  6. Ruka

    Who on earth would waste money launching an emergency injuction to stop other people from getting married? I mean how low do you have to be to make that call?

    January 10, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  7. sargeantpepper

    I'm coming out as a Heterosexual.

    January 10, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  8. Deez

    Never forget who is opposed to equality, peace, and love.

    Never let those who discriminate have any power over others.

    January 10, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  9. any1home

    Why don't they just recognize same sex marriage in every state in the union.

    January 10, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  10. James

    So does that mean they will no longer be married once a new administration comes in?

    January 10, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  11. LJ

    Shocker! The Obama Administration only recognizes the courts when the verdicts are in their favor.

    January 10, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  12. myVu

    Not surpised at all. Obamination to the rescue as usual.

    January 10, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  13. Joseph

    So freaking illegal. SCOTUS affirmed last summer that marriage was a state regulated right. So now the Feds are granting a right that the state hasn't. The unconstitutionality of this administration sickens the daylight out of me.

    January 10, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  14. grumpy grandpa

    I just looked out my window.

    Nope. Fire is not raining down from the sky.

    January 10, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  15. sharonn

    who cares. DOJ is still operating in the dark ages. they suk the big one

    January 10, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  16. Rob

    typical for our lib president to recognize these sham "marriages". Typical of CNN, hardly an unbiased news organization, to put it at the top of the screen. Real Americans know that these are not real "marriages" already.

    January 10, 2014 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  17. sharonn

    DOJ is still in the dark ages. slow as molasses

    January 10, 2014 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  18. sharonn

    doj is slow as mierda

    January 10, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  19. John, PA

    The "Always Wrong Obama" administration strikes again!

    January 10, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  20. Robert Main

    Whatever happened to states rights, the federal government should not recognize, first of all, marriages that are not recognized in the state where the marriages were performed, at this point illegally

    January 10, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  21. julnor

    "These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds,"

    But the uncertainty results from the federal govt. In the DOMA ruling the SCOTUS determined that the states determine who is married. In their Prop 8 ruling they said that the federal court will determine who can get married in California. Then it was another federal court that decided to overrule the right of Utah to make the determination, which the SCOTUS then stopped. I support the right of gays to marry, but I don't think this is Eric Holder's call. The SCOTUS must clean up the mess they made with their judicial incompetence and cowardice.

    January 10, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  22. Joe R.

    I remember years ago, the LGBT groups saying that we don't need a Constitutional Amendment; the states are deciding for themselves anyway. That was code for "A Constitution Amendment we can't beat, but the states deciding is still beatable." Since they can't get the popular vote, they have to rely on the daddy Gov.

    January 10, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  23. Gordo

    I am not surprised by the Feds' decision to recognize SSM marriages in Utah. I never dreamed these words would ever come out of my mouth. So happy for marriage equality, and can't wait for it to be the law of the land across the US.

    January 10, 2014 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  24. Guest

    I am all for equal rights, but what gets me is that the federal gov needs to stay out of states issues. they are not here to tell us what to do in state issues. stay out of our lives and go back to DC and deal with real problems like forgien threats.

    January 10, 2014 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  25. sqeptiq

    "So does that mean they will no longer be married once a new administration comes in?"

    Only if it's a republican administration. Democrats actually care about real freedom.

    January 10, 2014 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
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