Utah Same-Sex Couples Get Federal, But Not State, Benefits

Jan 10, 2014

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled parts of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional last June, same-sex couples in the United States were able to receive marriage benefits from the federal government.

While the Obama administration now recognizes Utah’s more than 1,000 same-sex couples married after Amendment 3 was overturned on Dec. 20, the state of Utah does not.

“Frankly, it’s something that has gone on in a lot of states though before," said Josh Gerstein, senior White House reporter for Politico. "Remember, there were a bunch of states that have recognized same-sex marriage for several years and only fairly recently a turnaround in the federal government’s policy, so you have that discrepancy before, and I don’t see why this one is necessarily much worse than that.”

Gerstein gave an example of how same-sex couples in Utah would be affected by this decision. Someone with access to direct medical care for their spouse might not have that right in a state hospital, but they might have the right in a U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs  hospital run by the federal government.

He said this situation highlights the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t made a definitive decision either way on same-sex marriage.

"I do think that eventually the U.S. Supreme Court is going to have to issue a definitive ruling one way or the other, saying that either same-sex marriage has to be recognized as a federal constitutional right that all states have to recognize, or that there's no such obligation."

Utah’s decision to not recognize the same-sex marriages since Dec. 20 came on Jan. 8. The state is appealing the ruling in the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

-Eric is a senior studying broadcast journalism at Utah State University.