Good news! Despite Utah taking the position that they are prohibited from recognizing the same-sex marriages that occurred while the state's Amendment 3 was suspended as a result of a federal judge's ruling in Kitchen v Herbert on December 20, the U.S. Department of Justice has determined that the Obama administration will recognize the estimated 1,300 marriages that occurred for purposes of federal law.
Attorney General Eric Holder said:
This is excellent news and may indicate that the United States may take a position in favor of recognition of these same-sex marriages before the Supreme Court when the lawsuit reaches that stage.Last June, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision – in United States v. Windsor – holding that Americans in same-sex marriages are entitled to equal protection and equal treatment under the law. This ruling marked a historic step toward equality for all American families. And since the day it was handed down, the Department of Justice has been working tirelessly to implement it in both letter and spirit – moving to extend — federal benefits to married same-sex couples as swiftly and smoothly as possible.Recently, an administrative step by the Court has cast doubt on same-sex marriages that have been performed in the state of Utah. And the governor has announced that the state will not recognize these marriages pending additional Court action.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. These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds. 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. And we will continue to provide additional information as soon as it becomes available.
Practically, it means that same-sex couples married in Utah will not receive any state recognition but will receive federal recognition of their marriages. Arguably, the federal benefits and responsibilities are more significant than those provided by the state.