WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Friday that the federal government would recognize same-sex ‘marriages’ in Utah as being valid and eligible for federal benefits, even though state officials have declined to do likewise on a state level.
According to reports, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a homosexual advocacy organization, had urged Holder to certify that the over 1,000 Utah residents that have received marriage licenses in the state will be entitled to federal benefits.
As per government determinations last year following the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), homosexuals who are “married” in states where same-sex nuptials are legal will be recognized as couples in the eyes of the federal government. The decision applies whether or not the individuals live in a state that recognizes same-sex “marriage”—just as long as they were enjoined in a state where such unions are permissible.
However, as the Supreme Court put a halt on the issuance of licenses while the a federal lawsuit runs its course through the appeals process, Gov. Gary Hebert has likewise declined to recognize homosexual “marriage” in the state while litigation continues.
“We cannot recognize these marriages,” Missy Larsen, spokeswoman for Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes told the Salt Lake Tribune. “That doesn’t mean they can’t be recognized in [other] areas that recognize same-sex marriage. The validity of those marriages will be determined by the court, but the recognition is what Utah cannot do at this point.”
Therefore, on Friday, Holder issued a statement confirming that the federal government will grant recognition even if the state won’t.
“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,” he wrote. “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,” Holder continued. “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.”
However, following the announcement, the National Organization for Marriage likewise issued a statement condemning the Obama administration for its actions.
“The Justice Department’s edict today expressly contradicts the determination of Utah’s governor and attorney general, and represents one of the most significant overreaches of federal authority imaginable,” President Brian Brown stated. “Furthermore, Attorney General Eric Holder is now doing the very thing that the Supreme Court in Windsor v. United States held the federal government could not do: use a definition of marriage for federal law purposes that did not respect the policy choices made by the individual states. This determination should be reversed if the State of Utah’s sovereignty—or really any state’s–is to be upheld and respected.”
“It is outrageous that the Justice Department would move so brazenly and publicly to undermine Utah’s standing constitutional provision regulating marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” he said. “It is the right of states to determine marriage, and the voters and legislature of Utah have done just that.”
As previously reported, in 2004, Utah residents approved a constitutional amendment enshrining marriage as being between a man and a woman with 66 percent of the vote.