Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 17, 2014

After Supreme Court Declines to Hear Same-Sex Marriage Cases, Attorney General Holder Announces Federal Government to Recognize Couples in Seven New States

Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the federal government will recognize same-sex marriages taking place in the states affected by the Supreme Court’s recent decision to decline to review rulings from three federal appeals courts that had struck down bans on same-sex marriage. The Attorney General added that the Department of Justice will work with agencies across the administration to ensure that all applicable federal benefits are extended to those couples as soon as possible. 

“We will not delay in fulfilling our responsibility to afford every eligible couple, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, the full rights and responsibilities to which they are entitled. With their long-awaited unions, we are slowly drawing closer to full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans nationwide,” Attorney General Holder said.

The complete text of the Attorney General’s video message is below:

“Last week, the Supreme Court declined to review rulings from three federal appeals courts that had struck down bans on same-sex marriage in five states across the country.  Going forward, marriage equality will be the law in those states.

“The practical consequences of the Court’s decision are profound for families throughout the nation.  Within hours of the decision, same-sex couples in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin were able to have their unions recognized in the states where they live—to stand with their partners, and with their children, as loving and committed families with the full protection of the law.

“I am pleased to announce that the federal government will recognize the same-sex marriages now taking place in the affected states, and I have directed lawyers here at the Department of Justice to work with our colleagues at agencies across the Administration to ensure that all applicable federal benefits are extended to those couples as soon as possible.  We will not delay in fulfilling our responsibility to afford every eligible couple, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, the full rights and responsibilities to which they are entitled.

“With their long-awaited unions, we are slowly drawing closer to full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans nationwide.  By letting the lower-court decisions stand, the Supreme Court expanded the number of states allowing same-sex marriage from 19 to 24, along with the District of Columbia.  Just one day after the Supreme Court’s action, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit joined the other courts that have invalidated bans, extending marriage rights even further.  In the past eight days, at least half a dozen additional states have recognized marriage equality.  And even more states covered by the lower-court rulings will almost certainly be joining them in short order. 

“The steady progress toward LGBT equality we’ve seen – and celebrated – is important and historic.  But there remain too many places in this country where men and women cannot visit their partners in the hospital, or be recognized as the rightful parents of their own adopted children; where people can be discriminated against just because they are gay.  Challenges to marriage restrictions are still being actively litigated in courts across the country.  And while federal appeals courts have so far been unanimous in finding that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, if a disagreement does arise, the Supreme Court may address the question head-on.  If that happens, the Justice Department is prepared to file a brief consistent with its past support for marriage equality. 

“In the meantime, we will continue to extend federal benefits to same-sex couples to the fullest extent allowed by federal law.  And we will continue to work—to the very best of our ability—to bring about a more equal future for all Americans nationwide.”

The full video of the Attorney General’s message is available at http://www.justice.gov/agwa.php.

14-1142
Updated October 17, 2014