Days after the state of Utah announced that it wouldn't yet recognize the state's 1,300-odd newly-married same-sex couples, the federal government announced that it will. In a statement, Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement that any gay couples married in Utah during a weeks-long window for equal marriage would be eligible for federal benefits offered to all legally married couples in the country.
Here's that statement, posted as a video to the Department of Justice's site on Friday:
“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. These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds.”
Utah temporarily became the 18th state to legalize gay marriages on December 20th, when a federal judge struck down the state's ban on constitutional grounds. Since Utah will appeal that decision, the Supreme Court issued a stay on Monday. That stay halts gay marriages in the state until a federal appeals court rules on the matter. But in the weeks between the original decision and the stay, more than a thousand couples flocked to county clerk's offices to obtain marriage licenses.
Although both New Mexico and California have previously decided to recognize marriages performed in a similar, temporary window, Utah announced on Wednesday that it would put its recognition of those newlyweds "on hold." This means that married same-sex couples will not be able to apply for state benefits offered to other married couples, but it's not a declaration that those marriages are invalid — at least not yet. Essentially, Utah will wait and let the courts settle the matter for them, which could take until at least 2015. Holder's announcement, at least, takes a step towards providing some certainty to those newlyweds who now find their marriages in a recognition limbo.