US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced [press release] Friday that the federal government will recognize the marriages that took place while same-sex marriage was briefly allowed in the state of Utah. In the 18 days that same-sex marriage was legal in Utah, approximately 1,300 couples were wed. Holder confirmed that these couples will be entitled to federal benefits, stating that "these families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds." This announcement comes a day after Human Rights Campaign [advocacy website] wrote a letter [text, PDF] to Holder arguing that "there is simply no reason for the United States government not to extend federal recognition" to those who were legally married.
Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] has been an intensely debated issue in the US and has been the cause for recent controversy in the state of Utah. A judge for the US District Court for the District of Utah [official website] struck down [JURIST report] the state's same-sex marriage ban in December, and the state began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples the day the ruling was issued. The Utah Attorney General [official website] then filed an application for stay [JURIST report] with the US Supreme Court [official website] last week to block same-sex marriages pending the state's appeal of the decision. The Supreme Court on Monday responded by temporarily blocking [JURIST report] the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses in the state. On Tuesday, the office of Utah Governor Gary Herbert [official profile] sent an e-mail to state Cabinet members, directing them to place legal recognition of same-sex marriages within the state on hold [JURIST report] until further notice.