January 10th, 2014
12:01 PM ET
8 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. Warren

    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.

    If you feel that way why not just stay on FOX?? PS I am a REAL (GAY) AMERICAN..

    January 10, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  2. herchato

    If states could do everything the way they would like we would be very short on civil rights and health care.

    January 10, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  3. 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!

    January 10, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  4. kns

    The right move. Good work Obama. Take that, Utah.

    January 10, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  5. Hillcrester

    The issue will likely be resolved one way or the other before January, 2017.

    January 10, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  6. John

    ENough already, let them be married...everyone has the right to be miserable.....alert to the nation,,,move on....

    January 10, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  7. scottw

    the federal benefit are the most important. the state will be brought into line in due time.

    January 10, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  8. Marty, FL

    Good for Obama for taking steps to uphold equality. The marriages were legally administered in the state and deserve their federal recognition.

    January 10, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  9. jessystevens

    MARRIAGE = Man + Woman, not woman-woman, not goat-man, not dog-woman, not woman-donkey

    January 10, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  10. jimi.

    Look, this is a no brainer. If the Federal Govt recognizes these marriages for tax reasons, then they ought to be constitutionally protected rights, regardless of WHAT the individual State says.
    It's time for the Supreme Court to get off it's duffass and make the ruling they should have made last year.

    January 10, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  11. Mike H

    This is NOT a state's right issue, otherwise every state could ban interracial marriages (again) under that logic. States don't have any authority to pass a law that violates constitutionally-protected individual rights.

    Gay marriage, like interracial marriage, is not expressly protected but that doesn't mean it isn't a right. Marriage, in general, IS a protected right (based on a multitude of SCOTUS rulings) and thus can be denied by a State only if the State can prove it has a compelling interest in denying people that right (such as banning marriage to minors or to closely related people).

    So the only question is whether Utah can prove harm to the State by allowing gay marriage. Should be interesting to see what arguments it makes.

    January 10, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  12. CosmicC

    I was about to post a comment to all those commenting against same-sex marriage that their reasoning is exactly the same as those who oppose interracial marriage. Then I realized that most of those people were also blindly bashing the President without reason and I decided that they probably still oppose interracial marriage.

    January 10, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    I'm sick of the federal government sticking their nose in the states' business. Marriage is a reserved power that is defined by state statutes. Next thing you know it will be okay for 70 yr. olds to marry 12 yr. olds. Can't deny them their equal rights as well. Morals no longer exist in U.S. anymore. Forefathers would laugh at this country today.

    January 10, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  14. Jerry

    As they should since they were legally married in the time between the judges ruling and the stay that was placed by the supreme court.

    January 10, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC


    Shocker! The Obama Administration only recognizes the courts when the verdicts are in their favor.
    The Justice Department decision is consistent with rulings and argument made before the SCOTUS in the DOMA case. The arguments had centered on tax issues. How should the affected couples file their federal taxes? The now know that they can file the federal taxes as "married" without issue.

    Speaking of only recognizeing courts when the verdicts are in your favor..... What do you think of the SCOTUS ruling on the Affordable Care Act? Why does it seem like the entire right wing is STILL trying to overturn the law?

    January 10, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  16. PushingBack

    No matter what anyone argues contrary, unless you are a gay man or woman, this doesn't affect you one way or the other. Mind your own business and let people live their lives!

    January 10, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  17. Amazed

    Wow! First HELL freezes over and now someone in government makes an intelligent decision that benefits people! What next world peace?/ Yeah no way.

    January 10, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  18. skibum

    A constitutional amendment banning marriage equality has zero chance of passing. And the Federal government should recognize these marriages that have been licensed before that was suspended. They were issued in good faith and performed legally. A precedent was set when Prop 8 passed. It did NOT invalidate the marriages performed. Only the haters have a real problem with marriage equality anyway. What bothers them is they KNOW they are fighting a losing battle. As for the concept of :"states" rights, People's rights trump that. They tried that with interracial marriages. Remember how that turned out? Probably still bothers you doesn't it. And for the guy who has the daylights scared out of him, one question: Where did you get your law degree that makes YOU think YOU can decide what is and isn't constitutional?

    January 10, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC


    The Federal Government of THESE United States has no business getting into the individual STATES business on this issue.
    The Justice Dept. is clearing up the uncertainty for the newly married couples when it comes to filing their FEDERAL taxes.

    January 10, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  20. ialsoagree


    That doesn't matter. The federal government has a constitutional responsibility to protect the liberties of all citizens that are protected by the federal constitution. So if a state passes a law or state constitutional amendment that violates the constitutionally protected rights of the citizens, the federal government is obligated to step in.

    January 10, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    To everyone griping about states' rights: 1963 Alabama called. They said they need their fire hoses back.

    January 10, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  22. rc roeder

    I am glad that the US government recognizes these people.

    January 10, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  23. pan3

    Thank you Mr. President!

    January 10, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  24. Steve

    People learn you civics. The Federal Govt recognition has nothing to do with states rights. The Feds are not telling Utah anything. But in the sphere of Federal rights and protections, those couples legally married in Utah at the time are being the same FEDERAL rights as any other married couple.

    It seems to me that the people championing States rights come from the states that get the biggest Federal hand out...

    January 10, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  25. AirCavalry

    This will create problems for Utah. They will be able to file income taxes, etc as a married couple and it will tie the Utah treasury up in knots (and lost suites. Yes I understand the knot pun

    January 10, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
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