Two days after Utah declared it would not recognize same-sex marriage licenses issued by…Utah, the federal government says that it will. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made the announcement in a video posted on the Justice Department’s website.
"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,” he said.
Federal marriage benefits include the ability to file joint federal income tax returns, exemption from estate taxes when a spouse dies, health insurance for spouses of federal employees, and the ability to sponsor a spouse for an immigration visa. Holder has been commended by the Human Rights Campaign, which lobbied hard for the decision.
The news affects some 1,300 same-sex couples who were granted marriage licenses after a federal district court ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitional. The state of Utah has fought to block the marriages and succeeded temporarily when the Supreme Court issued a stay earlier this week, halting marriages until an appeals court can rule on the issue.
Elsewhere in Slate: Elliot Hannon describes the legal limbo for Utah’s same-sex couples.