DETROIT (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday extended federal recognition to the marriages of about 300 same-sex couples that took place in Michigan before a federal appeals court put those unions on hold.
Holder's action will enable the government to extend eligibility for federal benefits to the Michigan couples who married Saturday, which means they can file federal taxes jointly, get Social Security benefits for spouses and request legal immigration status for partners, among other benefits.
The attorney general said the families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their benefits while courts decide the issue of same-sex marriage in Michigan. Holder did the same thing in Utah, where more than 1,000 same-sex couples got married before the U.S. Supreme Court put those unions on hold in January after a federal judge overturned the conservative state's same-sex marriage ban in December.
Holder's decision came a week after U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman in Detroit struck down the gay marriage ban and two days after Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder called last weekend's marriages legal but said Michigan won't recognize them.
Snyder told reporters following an unrelated bill signing in Lansing that Holder's actions weren't a surprise "because of the situation in Utah and the position he took there."
However, it does "create more complexity," Snyder said. "... I'm sure we'll get a number of questions that we'll need to sort out about between the interrelationship of state and federal law."
Michigan needs to recognize that times are changing, said Donna DeMarco, whose reaction to Friday's federal recognition was: "Cool."
DeMarco and Lisa Ulrey were among the dozens of couples who married Saturday in Oakland County, northwest of Detroit.
"The federal government is making great strides with recognizing same-sex marriage," DeMarco said. "It's time for Michigan to get out of its prehistoric age and get with the times. When you have a state government that's full of hate and straddles political lines and doesn't recognize that people are people, it affects a lot of people."