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Federal government will recognize same-sex marriages that were performed in Utah

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The Obama administration announced today that the federal government will recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah before the Supreme Court issued its stay of the district court’s decision declaring the state’s ban unconstitutional. Utah officials had said earlier this week that state recognition of these marriages would be “on hold” pending the Tenth Circuit appeal, and said yesterday that same-sex couples whose marriages were performed before the stay should receive their marriage certificates for administrative purposes. Now that the Obama administration will allow the federal government to recognize these marriages, the certificates, while not legally relevant for state law purposes, will become important for the administration of benefits by the federal government.

Attorney General Eric Holder will work to ensure full compliance:

In a video announcement, Holder says the federal government will recognize the marriages of the more 1,300 couples estimated to have wed in the state, even though Utah Gov. Gary Herbert indicated a letter to staff earlier this week the state won’t recognize the unions pending appeal.

“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 says.

In the coming weeks, Holder pledges to coordinate with other branches of the federal government to ensure federal benefits are flowing to same-sex couples who wed in Utah.

The Tenth Circuit appeal is fast-tracked, and will likely be heard within a couple of months.

Help us travel to Denver this spring to cover oral arguments in the Utah marriage equality case. You won’t regret it, and you can help EqualityOnTrial be a part of history in the making. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to EqualityOnTrial in the new year to help us continue this mission–any amount helps!


  • 1. Lymis  |  January 10, 2014 at 9:36 am

    This is excellent news! Combined with the news that anyone whose ceremony was completed on time will be recorded, even if the state didn't process the paperwork before the stay.

    Sorry for everyone who didn't get in before the deadline, and nothing but hopes that this will be resolved sooner rather than later, but wonderful news!

  • 2. Chuck in PA  |  January 10, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    We need to celebrate every incremental victory as we wait for the big win some day, hopefully soon.

  • 3. bayareajohn  |  January 10, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    And we need to consider how much of this would NOT happen with a Republican president, let alone a Mormon president. And remember to vote in each and every election.

  • 4. Eric Koszyk  |  January 10, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Here in VA the control of the state senate is going to be determined by two special elections and one of them was on Tuesday where the Democrat won by 9 votes out of more than 20,000!

  • 5. Deeelaaach  |  January 12, 2014 at 1:31 am

    While that is almost certainly true, it is not completely true. A large majority of LDS church members would probably go against us if they were president. Of those in politics today, at least Senator Reid is slowly moving in our direction. He's not where we are yet, but he seems to be only one step away.

    On the other hand, there are Mormons – like myself – who would NOT support the anti-marriage equality folk. We might be few and far between, but we are out there. And yes, I'm out too.

    All I'm saying is that you can't look at a label like Mormon or any other label and make conclusions about them based on that label. There's a name for that. Hmmmm, I wonder what it is?

  • 6. Greg  |  January 12, 2014 at 4:58 am

    Actually, yes. Yes we can. Mormons by an an overwhelming majority have been at the forefront of every discriminatory legsilation for LGBT, and devoted millions of dollars and resources. You want us to overlook that and praise the few who aren't like that? Sorry but I'm sure there were a few Nazis who liked Jews too.

  • 7. Two Dads  |  January 12, 2014 at 5:00 am

    I certainly know the name for religious gays like you who demand respect for your religion when your religion has shown zero respect for us….

  • 8. Kevin In Westwood  |  January 12, 2014 at 5:04 am

    Oh, here we go with the 'concerned trolls'
    Look, your Mormon instituion has done a great deal in harming gays and barely any Mormons rolled up their sleeves to challenge said institution. Saying "oh I'm for gay marriage" isn't enough when you still support an instituion that actively seeks to harm our community. Resent the labels and HONEST observation about your institution? Don't be a part of it. It's not our responsibility to polish the image of your religion. It's our responsibility to be honest about who is harming us and challenge them on it.

  • 9. Sagesse  |  January 12, 2014 at 8:26 am

    The key is always to distinguish 'organized religion'… the Mormon church, from individual persons of faith. The 'organized religion', the institution that is actively, publicly anti-LGBT is the enemy and should be challenged.

  • 10. Eric  |  January 12, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Why? Individuals choose their religion. If they want to be a part of the organization, they can accept responsibility for the actions of the group they voluntarily join.

  • 11. Lynn E  |  January 12, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    But individuals choose their state of residency also. Holding individuals responsible for their religion's philosophical short-sightedness is akin to saying you don't deserve to be gay if you live in a red state. There is more to faith than blind adherence to an organization's political beliefs.

  • 12. Eric  |  January 12, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Geographical government is a bit different than a voluntary organization, or so the Constitution tells me.

    It is one thing to live in Indiana, quite another to claim to be a member of the KKK for the pot lucks.

  • 13. Lynn E  |  January 12, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    You make the assumption that people join religions because of their political involvement. Your premise is that if you disagree with your religion on any topic, then you must change religions. Some people of faith choose to remain to be a witness to a wider view, and through their efforts, eyes have been opened. Your analogy to the KKK would be correct if the only purpose of religion was to discriminate and have potlucks. As faith is far more complex than that, it is insulting.
    Geographical location is also a matter of choice, and people choose to stay where they are and influence legislation rather than move to a more enlightened region.

  • 14. RAJ  |  January 12, 2014 at 4:32 pm


    I appreciate that change can and should come to an institution from without and within, but considering the most recent official statement from the Mormon Church:

    I think its clear that Mormon leadership is not budging one inch. That's certainly their right, but judging by this statement, it seems they want to be free from criticism or social cost for their actions and that's just not reality. And I can't tell you how nauseating I find their call for "civility", considering all the damage the institution (with the help of its individual members) have done to the LGBT community, to say nothing of the damage they've done to some of their OWN children.

    Yes, some need to stay and raise a dissenting voice, but —MAN— is your leadership making it difficult.

  • 15. Lynn E  |  January 12, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    I am not LDS, and I agree that the Church's leadership wants to be held blameless for the direction they have taken the Organization. I don't believe absolution comes that easy. Nor should it come that easy.
    I object to negativity being directed to a person who believes, at least in part, that our cause is just, simply on the basis that they remain in the religion. In an interview published shortly before the LDS statement, one of the plaintiffs in the case also called for civility on both sides.
    I may constantly fail in my efforts, but I try to live my life by the motto "What Would Gandhi Do."

  • 16. RAJ  |  January 12, 2014 at 4:49 pm


    Excellent comments and my apologies for assuming.

  • 17. Steve  |  January 12, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    That doesn't wash with the Mormons coming out by the hundreds to "testify" against marriage quality in Hawaii. Or their volunteer activities during Prop 8. Yeah, with a cult like the Mormons there some some amount of coercion involved, but it's not like anyone is holding a gun to their heads and makes them do this.

  • 18. bayareajohn  |  January 12, 2014 at 9:45 am

    In this case, to use your own words, the name for that is "almost certainly true".
    And don't be coy, you know I am referring to the last election, when the Mormon on the table was not a theoretical statistic… it was Romney.

    And since the Republicans and LDS have lined up organizationally and as policy to fight us in the legislature and courts, it's not, as you imply, prejudice to classify those groups as generally against us. And any future candidate that those groups would promote for the presidency would have to support their core beliefs – just as Romney did.

  • 19. JayJonson  |  January 12, 2014 at 10:13 am

    Yes, the allusion was quite specific. We know that if Romney had been elected, the Justice Department would be dedicated to obstructing marriage equality not implementing equal rights. On the other hand, there are Mormon individuals, including politicians like Senator Udall of Colorado, who support marriage equality. Similarly, there are a few Republicans who support marriage equality. These exceptions should be acknowledged and applauded, but their presence does not change the reality that the Mormon Church and the Republican Party are opposed to equal rights.

  • 20. Bruno71  |  January 12, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Yes, as a matter of platform, both the LDS and the Republican Party are OFFICIALLY against LGBT rights, though it should be noted that the LDS church seems to now be in favor of ENDA-like non-discrimination laws.

  • 21. Eric  |  January 12, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    The LDS church is not in favor of ENDA. If they were, Utah would have anti-discrimination protections already. You will know them by their fruits.

  • 22. Stefan  |  January 12, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    They are still Republicans though. Don't forget that Utah has the highest percentage of residents in municipalities with ENDA laws in place.

  • 23. Eric  |  January 13, 2014 at 7:51 am

    California and many other states are at 100% coverage statewide for all state and local laws. Utah is no where near that.

    Municipalities are a subdivision of the state, anything they do will always be less than 100%.

  • 24. allen  |  January 10, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Sorry if this has been asked… but will other Marriage Equality States recognize the Utah marriage licenses that were issued? I know they normally would but since Utah does not recognize their own issued licenses, I wasn't sure.

  • 25. Bruno71  |  January 10, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    I assume each of those states' AG would make the determination? I'd also assume most, if not all, will recognize the marriages.

  • 26. grod  |  January 10, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    HRC has written to all equality states and asked them to do so, as it had the US Attorney General. Whatever is done to strengthen the rights to remain married and to have one's valid marriage recognized is a significant step in the right direction. Fifteen of the 25 or so cases currently before the course have as an element the right to remain married and recognized between states – undermining of section 2 of DOMA. On pg 8 to 15 of the following link the D AG of Oregon – in her directive to state agencies states why Oregon is recognizing valid [out-of-state] marriages.… A worthwhile read

  • 27. grod  |  January 10, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Maryland will recognize Utah marriages

  • 28. Two Dads  |  January 12, 2014 at 4:52 am

    This is great news on so many different levels! Thank you equality on trial for always reporting everything in great detail for us. So many of us appreciate this site.

  • 29. grod  |  January 12, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    "There is no state right to hurt people, and the Supreme Court will make that clear eventually" concludes 14/1/11 Editorial -Salt Lake Tribune:

  • 30. Lynn E  |  January 12, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    I certainly agree, and hope they are correct. While I don't feel the State's arguments are compelling, it does hinge on "state's rights." This argument makes me nervous when it comes to a SCOTUS review.

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