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Marriage equality 2014: Federal government to recognize Utah gay marriages

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. pauses while speaking during a memorial service for the Pan Am Flight 103 Lockerbie bombing at Arlington National Cemetery December 21, 2011 in Arlington, Virginia.
(Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Gay marriage in the state of Utah has scored a victory on Friday. As NBC News reports on Jan. 10, the federal government will recognize marriages performed in Utah after a judge struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

In a statement, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. says:

“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 marriage.”

That means over 1,000 same-sex marriages performed since the decision on Dec. 20 will be recognized on a federal level even as the state has put a hold on gay marriage. As gay couples continue to be in limbo over the status of their marriages, Attorney General Holder has eased some confusion stating, that couples recently married “should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status” in the midst of legal challenges.

The decision will open up more than 1,100 federal benefits for gay couples, easing the disappointment they endured with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert released a memo earlier this week directing state agencies to cease honoring marriage licenses. The memo read:

“State recognition of same-sex marital status is ON HOLD until further notice. Please understand this position is not intended to comment on the legal status of those same-sex marriages – that is for the courts to decide.”

Although newlyweds will now have access to federal benefits they will not be able to file joint state tax returns or proceed with second-parent adoptions until a decision on whether gay marriage will be recognized in the state is made.

If the ruling to allow gay marriages in the state holds up, Utah will be the 18th state to recognize same-sex marriage, but there still may be a long fight ahead for gay marriage supporters, but one that will be fought hard until there is “equality and freedom”.