Holder: Utah Same-Sex Marriages Recognized Under Federal Law

Attorney General Eric Holder clarified that Utah's same-sex marriages are recognized under federal law, in spite of the ongoing battle in that state.

Holder: Utah Same-Sex Marriages Recognized Under Federal Law

A confusing situation in Utah regarding same-sex couples led to this message Friday from Attorney General Eric Holder.

"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." (Via Department of Justice)

This means the Obama administration will recognize more than 1,300 same-sex marriages in the state. But why did Holder even need to even clarify?

On Dec. 20 of last year, a federal District Court judge declared Utah's ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional. (Via The New York Times)

So couples in the state started getting married. But that only lasted for 17 days.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to the state's request to put a hold on the federal judge's order to let the appeals process play out. (Via The Huffington Post)

This effectively stopped same-sex marriages there and created a messy situation for the couples who'd gotten married during that 17-day period.

So rather than keep couples guessing, Holder made the video to tell those couples there is no uncertainty regarding their marriages on the federal level. A CNN correspondent says:

"If the government had done anything but what they've done now, Utah would've been sort of standing out there as the one state where all of these things didn't apply."

A law professor at American University tells The Salt Lake City Tribune this means couples will be eligible to file joint tax returns federally but then have to file separate tax returns for the state.

"In practical terms it feels like legal chaos that is really not fair to the couples who were given valid marriage licenses by public officials who at the time had the legal authority to grant those licenses."

The back-and-forth situation is, of course, getting responses from both sides.

The Wall Street Journal talked to a group that opposes same-sex marriage and called Holder's announcement an overreach: "We're very disturbed by the Justice Department's decision to recognize same-sex marriages in Utah even though the Supreme Court has put a halt to them."

Whereas a plaintiff in the lawsuit that led to the Dec. 20 ruling told USA Today, "[The federal government's decision] shows that there really is a social and cultural shift in viewpoints and mindsets toward marriage equality."

Keep in mind — although marriages that took place during those 17 days are being recognized, the hold is still effective. Right now, same-sex couples in Utah cannot get married unless that hold is lifted.