January 10th, 2014
12:01 PM ET
9 years 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. Rev O'Connell

    This is a human rights issue. Religious organization will not be affected. The federal government can not compel a religious organization to perform ceremonies for any group. Religious orders still to this very day choose whom they will marry. Even though it is law, some religious organization refuse to marry interracial couples, couples not of that religion, atheists, ssm in states that have legalized ssm and more.

    The argument that marriage has always been between a man and a woman is incorrect. The Catholic Church at one time considered nuns to be married to god, And today is considered more figurative among some eremitical professions. In some religions a female was married to gods or goddesses or even beasts. In some religions all females that devoted themselves to that religion was married to the head priest. This also applied to men as well.
    So what ever happened to turn the other cheek, love thy neighbor and judge not least ye be judged?

    January 10, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  2. Oh Brother

    Slowly but surely headed toward civilization (dragging the teabaggers kicking and screaming)

    January 10, 2014 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  3. Peach

    I wish our government would get OUT of the business of marriage-–apparently, Holder doesn't have enough to do.

    January 10, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  4. current state of the union

    Lol, so right, much better to vote for rich people who want to ignore the poor and sick, and choose to live in opulence?

    January 10, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  5. sly


    The more I see what Obama does, the more I convinced that he is here on earth to deceive many and tempt many so many can go to HELL. And HELL is real – google it where many people describe the HELL. I don't want to go there – do you?
    I think it's too late. President Obama is not human – He is a God from Heaven who was kicked out (heaven is 'whites only' of course). His power is Great, so beware.

    I remember a few years ago President Obama created Hurricane Sandy in order to get elected.

    I would fear this God – He is Great and Powerful!

    January 10, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  6. dsouzrr

    Why is this not anywhere on the homepage anymore? Why is it listed as a top trend on the sidebar when you open another article, but not listed as a top trend on the top off the cnn homepage?

    January 10, 2014 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  7. ncgh

    "We voted to not have it in our state, in no way, shape or form should anyone feel like the majority of voters shouldn't have a say on what goes on in Utah."

    How about other issues? Should a "majority of voters" have the right to take away your guns?

    January 10, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  8. Tweety bird

    It's a losing fight that the tax payers should not be on the hook for. When the lose, and they will, it should come out of the Governor's salary.

    January 10, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  9. Dr Tom

    How can the Federal gov't recognize marriages that may be ruled invalid. Will it then "unrecognize them"? The SC will eventually have to rule on this. Until they do, a lot of people are in limbo. They should put it on a fast track and rule by this coming June. By the way, under Federal law married people not only get benefits but also obligations.

    January 10, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC

    John Paul

    And Obama claimes to be a Christian? He's serving fallen man rather than Christ who says that "from the beginning God made them MALE and FEMALE..." so that "a man would leave his mother and cleave to his WIFE"... NOT sodomize his man! Obama is no more a Christian than the devil of Hell.
    It's even worse than that. The entire federal government is more a Christian than the devil in Hell, either. Read the 1st Amendment.

    January 10, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  11. Independent Thinker

    Both republicans and democrats are hypocrites when it comes to accusing the opposition of violating the rights and liberties of individuals. Many in both parties are guilty of this, just with a different set of rights and liberties. Neither respects the rights and liberties of individuals when those rights and liberties go against their worldview

    January 10, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  12. skip

    here's my take:

    if you believe in god/bible/christianity – bless you
    if you don't and believe another form of religion/higher power/whatever – bless you
    if you are far right – bless you
    if you are far left – bless you

    if your beliefs cause you to overlook the fact that ALL people deserve certain unalienable rights – then – foff. you may read between the letters on that one.

    January 10, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  13. Reggie53

    I think Obama thinks he is GOD. I hope he can live with himself when he is out of office. No more walking on water for the liberals/democrats. It is back down to earth for him.........

    January 10, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  14. J Russ

    sqepiq-real freedom is not having to the federal government micro manage every aspect of our life......why is big brother even involved in marriage???

    January 10, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  15. dan

    That's was a cool thing for the feds to do, but I hope the 10th district court will rule in favor of keeping gay marriages in Utah. There is no reason that holds any water to ban them, because this is not a religious issue, but rather a human rights one.

    January 10, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  16. Ben

    As this is a legal issue – let's stick to legal facts, regardless of religious based opinions... that being said:

    To anyone arguing that this is a state issue, and that the federal gov't has no right to be involved in this matter – please explain to me why further proceedings will be in a federal, rather than a state, court? At that point, doesn't it become federal jurisdiction?

    And while I'm not enough of an expert to know this next point for sure – I highly doubt that the state has to right to revoke/ignore licenses already issued following a court ruling. Doesn't the court ruling make the licenses currently legal, regardless of if it will or will not stand upon further judicial review? I just don't understand how the state AG can simply "advise" something and instantly negate a court ruling – that makes no sense to me from the standpoint of due process. Wouldn't it be the the criminal justice equivalent of guilty until proven innocent – in the sense of administering the sentence prior to the court's verdict (setting aside more obvious applicable differences like a jury vs judge ruling)?

    Lastly, for those who are making arguments based on religious grounds: I don't believe you have any ground to stand on in legal proceedings. Yes, you can pass laws based on voting majority, sometimes strongly influenced by a majority group with religious ties, but once a judge legally rules against it based on the fact that it is clearly discriminatory and in opposite to equal rights laws, you can't simply negate that legal ruling "based on advice from the state's attorney general" without further elaboration.

    Unless someone with true legal knowledge can fill in these gray areas, my opinion is that the Federal gov't appears to perfectly be in bounds with the state actually not following protocol. (And don't get me wrong, I really dislike Obama and the general direction of the Democratic party – I'd estimate I vote republican roughly 80-90% of the time, mostly based on the fact that left tries to over-reach, in the sense that they try to change too much too fast without really looking at potential consequences – AHCA being a great example, it was voted on before majority of lawmakers could even read the thing!)

    Anyone with better knowledge of the legal aspects I've mentions, we all welcome your comments... this is obviously only an educated opinion, not based on facts. (I must also point out that any religious statements are based on opinion as well, and are arguably less educated in the sense of legal validity – fine to express how you personally feel about the direction this is going, but wrong to claim it belongs in court – you get to voice your opinion on a ballot, as Utah citizens did in 2004, and subsequently got reversed based on laws with higher precedence by a judge – both actions seemingly valid).

    All in all, is it not true that saying this is all because of Obama is a ridiculous farce? (Again, I don't like the guy, but this is different from Benghazi, fast and furious, or any other cover up we like to gripe over)

    January 10, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  17. sly

    Conservatives were upset when women were allowed to vote.
    They got mad when minorities were allowed to vote.
    They murdered innocent students when minorities were allowed to attend school.
    Conservatives hung black girls from trees when interracial marriage was allowed.
    Now they want the government to give them money for being married, but don't let minorities or gays get married.

    Can we say Racist Prejudiced Bigots? TeaBillies – thank you President Obama for kickin' their outback tails.

    January 10, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
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