January 10th, 2014
12:01 PM ET
6 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. ProudDem

    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

    ____________________________________________________________________________
    They were not performed illegally. A judge ruled (a republican one, by the way), licenses were issued, and people were married. Fed says that yes, we will recognize those legal marriages...this is not a hard question.

    January 10, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  2. sly

    mike

    The Federal Government of THESE United States has no business getting into the individual STATES business on this issue. As it does not have anything to do with the bogus 'interstate commerce' claim that almost ALL federal law is said to be under, the Feds should stay the hell out of the business of the sovereign states!
    ======
    Yeah Mike! And the states should be allowed to lynch all minorities and prevent them from attending the 'white schools', right?

    Oh yeah, and from now on, states will prevent blacks from marrying white people. Yup, states rights really worked real well there in the south, huh Mike?

    January 10, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  3. ThisWillBeFun

    Technically, Utah could annul those marriages, so will federal government still recognize such marriages? Seems like pandering to a certain lifestyle is going to end up dearly for the government. If lifestyle choices are being protected under constitution, why am I being taxed more than a person making minimum wage? It was my choice to work hard (and smart) to advance my career.

    January 10, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  4. simi

    Simple solution. Let them get married. The typical right wing hate speech is the only argument against.

    January 10, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  5. Marcus Alvarez

    Wasn't expecting this move from the Justice Dept. I'd say it's a good one, obviously highly favoring the ongoing same sex marriage rights issue in our nation. Maybe some agree or disagree with same sex marriage, but either way this unexpected move really rolls the ball forward in forcing clarification on the issue for what would otherwise be a slow litigation battle.

    January 10, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  6. Jack M

    When will people realize that the times are moving forward? People, please mind your own business and stop worrying about what other folks do in the bedroom. Seriously, don't you have anything better to do than to try and run others' lives?

    January 10, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  7. Rick

    In a way, this reminds me of another time and place in American History when the government ignored the rule of law and I am not talking about when the government illegally ordered hundred of thousands of American citizens into Internment camps during WW 2 just because they were of Japanese ancestory. back in the 1830's or so, the Cherokee nation lived in Georgia, as they had for hundreds of years. As the country was expanding, a lot of Whire people wanted the Indians gone. The issue went to the then Supreme Court who sided with the Cherokee people and ruled the government and white peopel have no right to make them move if they do not wish too. Then President Jackson simply laughed at the decision and promptly ordered the military to forceably remove the tens of thousands of Cherokees out of georgia and marched them to Oklahoma - the march became known as the Trail of Tears. Now with the same sex marriage in Utah, I'm just saying that the government does a lot of things a lot of time.

    January 10, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  8. JD

    America – love it or leave it.

    January 10, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  9. Marcus Alvarez

    *Thiswillbefun – Obviously because that age old argument of this being a "lifestyle" choice is void and dated and not even on the plate of debatable points here.

    January 10, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  10. TONE

    @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

    So why don't you rightwingers stay out of womens lives limiting their ability to choose, hypocrits.

    January 10, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  11. O'drama ya Mama

    Love how Republicans are arguing for states rights but are ignoring individual rights at the same time.

    January 10, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  12. the_dude

    The law is an afterthought to the ofailure administration

    January 10, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  13. noteasilyswayed

    Fifty years from now we will look at this and wonder why any state thought they could get away with denying anyone the ability to be legally married to whomever they love. It is that simple, just like denying anyone something because of gender or color was previously accepted even though it's morally wrong. If it was up to some red states, we would still allow slavery.

    January 10, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    "Next thing you know it will be okay for 70 yr. olds to marry 12 yr. olds"

    Or...*gasp*...black people marrying white people!!!! The HORROR!!!!

    January 10, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  15. Demigod Vadik, CA

    Why are Republicans always fighting losing battles???

    January 10, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  16. Jeff--Tacoma

    Awesome!

    January 10, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  17. Mark Causey

    This is a copy of a letter I just sent to Governor Gary Herbert of Utah:
    Just to return the favor for Utah funding the anti-gay marriage initiative in California, I will be paying for 4 gay couples to move to Salt Lake City. I will also pay for their support for one year or until they can find gainful employment. I am sure that this will do much to improve the cultural mix of the Salt Lake area. Please respect my wishes and do not send me your thanks.

    January 10, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  18. pensive

    Aren't these the same folks who gave us the Mountain Meadow Massacre?

    January 10, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  19. Thoughtful

    The five right wingers on the Supreme court are the problem. This, like voting rights, election donations, corporations have "rights" all show that the five Republicans have their fat thumbs on the scales of justice.

    They rule on the side of wealth and privilege and decline to hear cases that bear on individual rights. Why do corporations have rights, but people do not?

    The Supreme Court needs term limits. A reasonable court (ie not one packed with Republican operatives like Scalia and Thomas) would resolve this in the spirit of "Pursuit of Happiness" doctrine.

    States have NO right to deny citizens their civil rights, whether it is a marriage, or voting rights, or the rich being allowed to buy elections with monster contributions to the politicians who take money from the fat cats to rob the middle class.

    Every tax giveaway for the wealthy and corporations means the middle class has to pay more, usually for fewer services. We need to fix the Supreme Court!

    January 10, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  20. JSB

    @ prouddem.

    ProudDem
    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

    ____________________________________________________________________________
    They were not performed illegally. A judge ruled (a republican one, by the way), licenses were issued, and people were married. Fed says that yes, we will recognize those legal marriages...this is not a hard question.

    --

    The judge said that gay marriage was legal and therefore counties started issuing the licenses. The fact of the matter is that the judge didn't rule the marriages were legal but instead caused marriages to occur. The law still states that gay marriage is illegal in UTAH which means that the FEDERAL government is stating that they will support marriages that are illegal (as well as legally recognized by the various states) which is a significant step beyond what any of the courts have allowed including the SCOTUS.

    Not that we are at all surprised that this administration thinks that Obama is king/dictator rather than simply President.

    January 10, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  21. Dennis

    Thank you to the Federal Government for stepping up and doing the right thing

    January 10, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  22. David Jones

    A gay marriage is the only marriage the Federal Government under Obama will honor.

    January 10, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  23. Silence DoGood

    @Robert Main "Whatever happened to states rights?"
    They went out the window when Bush ran to the SCOTUS to overturn Florida law and got elected.

    January 10, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  24. John

    Holder does not have the authority to do this, but when the dear leaders makes a decree, it must be carried out. If anyone agrees with this dictorial announcement and the total disregard for current law, you are part of the problem

    January 10, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  25. CALIFORNIA

    This administration never cared about what anyone else thought anyways. Laws are just things that get in their way.

    January 10, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
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