U.S. Government Will Recognize Same-Sex Marriage In Utah

The federal government announces that it will recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah, despite state officials saying that they won't recognize them — at least for now. The same-sex marriages are under review in the federal court.

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The Department of Justice said today it will recognize more than a thousand same-sex marriages that took place in Utah recently. The announcement comes despite the state's questions about their validity. Utah is appealing an earlier court ruling that allowed the unions. From member station KUER in Salt Lake City, Terry Gildea has this report.

TERRY GILDEA, BYLINE: News of the federal government's recognition of gay married couples in Utah didn't change the minds of state officials.

MISSY LARSEN: The state of Utah will not recognize same-sex marriages.

GILDEA: Missy Larsen is a spokeswoman for the Utah attorney general's office. She says those same-sex couples married in Utah for the brief period it was legal would be recognized in the 17 other states that allow gay marriage. On December 20th, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby overturned Utah's law banning same-sex marriage. Seventeen days later, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the lower court ruling, putting gay marriage on hold.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)

GILDEA: Just outside the attorney general's office in the state capitol, hundreds of supporters of same-sex marriage held a rally. They delivered more than 45,000 petition signatures asking Governor Gary Herbert to recognize same-sex marriage in Utah. Among the protesters was Derek Kitchen, one of the plaintiffs in the original lawsuit against the state.

DEREK KITCHEN: I am surprised and disappointed in the state of Utah for not recognizing those marriages that they issued themselves during those two weeks when marriage was legal here. We'll see where it goes from here.

GILDEA: The state is preparing an appeal to the 10th Circuit court based in Denver. In the meantime, gay couples who were legally married in Utah will have to go outside the state to receive recognition of their union. For NPR News, I'm Terry Gildea in Salt Lake City.

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