In a move that promises to complicate the already complicated situation in Utah even more, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder took the high-profile step of telling same-sex couples who married in Utah that the federal government will recognize their marriage as valid.
“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,” Mr. Holder said. “These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds.”
Holder made his comments in a video that was posted to the Justice Department website. While a simple statement would have sufficed, the video highlights the seriousness with which the Obama administration is treating the case.
On Wednesday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said that the state would not recognize the 1,300 same-sex marriages that took place after a federal judge ruled that the state must allow marriage equality. The marriages were halted after the Supreme Court issued a stay while the state appeals the ruling.
Holder’s move makes it harder for the state to “unwind” marriages that have already taken place. Even if Utah should succeed in its appeal, the federal government’s recognition of the marriages creates a two-tier system that would be ripe for legal challenge.
Holder’s video also makes it clear that having taken such a long time to evolve, the Obama administration now sees itself as an active player in ensuring that marriage equality succeeds across the nation. Today’s action shows the Administration is trying to make up for lost time .