Federal marital benefits will be conferred on about 1,000 same-sex couples married in Utah before the unions were put on hold this week by the Supreme Court, the Justice Department announced today.
In a video posted on the Justice Department’s website, Attorney General Eric Holder said: “For the 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 added.
Holder’s action applies to hundreds of same-sex couples who were married during a 2 1/2-week period between a federal judge’s decision overturning a state ban on such unions and an order from the Supreme Court that put the decision on hold Monday.
In June, the Supreme Court struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which denied befits to legally married same-sex couples. Since then, the Justice Department has been scouring laws and regulations to update benefits for same-sex couples married in states that permit such unions.
The Justice Department action comes two days after the Utah attorney general announced the state would not grant further benefits to the same-sex couples who were married before the Supreme Court order. “It is clear the state is bound by law to limit any benefits attaching after” the Supreme Court put such unions on hold, said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes.