1:11pm

Fri January 10, 2014
The Two-Way

Same-Sex Couples In Utah Made Eligible For Federal Benefits

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 3:35 pm

"Attorney General Eric Holder announced Friday that the federal government will recognize the 900-plus same-sex marriages that took place in Utah during the two weeks when such unions were legal," NPR's Nina Totenberg writes for us.

That means those couples "will be eligible for all federal benefits," NPR's Carrie Johnson adds.

In a statement, Holder says that:

"Last June, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision — in United States v. Windsor — holding that Americans in same-sex marriages are entitled to equal protection and equal treatment under the law. This ruling marked a historic step toward equality for all American families. And since the day it was handed down, the Department of Justice has been working tirelessly to implement it in both letter and spirit — moving to extend — federal benefits to married same-sex couples as swiftly and smoothly as possible.

"Recently, an administrative step by the court has cast doubt on same-sex marriages that have been performed in the state of Utah. And the governor has announced that the state will not recognize these marriages pending additional court action.

"In the meantime, 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.

"These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds. In the days ahead, we will continue to coordinate across the federal government to ensure the timely provision of every federal benefit to which Utah couples and couples throughout the country are entitled — regardless of whether they in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages."

As Carrie has reported, extending federal benefits to same-sex couples can be a complicated process. When they are, she's written:

"Federal employees in same-sex marriages can extend health and life insurance coverage to their spouses. Immigration authorities say they'll review petitions from people in same-sex relationships the same way they review requests from opposite-sex couples. And at the IRS, tax officials say legally married gay and lesbian couples can now file jointly."

Update at 3:35 p.m. ET. Governor's Office Responds

A statement from Gov. Gary R. Herbert reads:

"The announcement that the Department of Justice will recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah comes as no surprise and is consistent with previous direction to state agencies. State agencies have always been directed to comply with federal law when providing federal services and will continue to do so. State agencies are directed and will continue to comply with state laws when providing state services."

Update at 2:45 p.m. ET. But State Says 'No' To Joint Tax Returns.

NPR's Howard Berkes notes that:

"Utah's position is that same-sex couples cannot file joint state tax returns. ... And if a federal return is based on joint filing, the federal figures and calculations cannot legally be used for the state return. ... This means that married same-sex couples in Utah will have to go through two completely separate tax-return filing processes — filing as individuals on their state tax returns and then starting over from scratch and filing jointly on their federal returns, if they choose to file jointly as a married couple on the federal return."

Two of our previous posts on the news from Utah:

-- Same-Sex Marriages No Longer Recognized, Utah Tells Agencies

-- Supreme Court Halts Gay Marriages In Utah

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.