Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Friday that the Obama administration will recognize about 1,300 gay marriages in the Utah, despite a Supreme Court ruling on Monday temporarily banning the practice until the Court rules on the constitutionality of the Utah law.
There are several real benefits gay couples will enjoy as a result of recognition by the Federal government. Holder’s move allows the couples to file joint tax returns, be eligible for family health insurance for federal employees and the ability to sponsor a non-US citizen spouse for a family reunification visa.
“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,” Holder said in a statement.
“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 are in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages,” he added.
On December 20th last year Federal District Judge Robert Shelby in Utah ruled that the state’s ban on gay marriage was in violation of the US Constitution. In the wake of that decision gay couples rushed to tie the knot. Utah requested a stay on Shelby’s decision while the state prepares an appeal against the decision, but the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit rejected that stay. The US Supreme Court overturned the district’s decision and granted Utah the stay at least until the 10th Circuit resolves the appeal. The Supreme Court’s decision puts into question the status of the couples who married during the two-week period between Shelby’s decision and that of the Supreme Court.
It is not clear how the Obama administration’s decision to recognize gay marriage will play into the final decisions of the various courts involved.