Just hours after the Obama administration said it would recognize the 1,300 same-sex marriages in Utah, hundreds of marriage equality supporters gathered inside the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday calling on Republican Gov. Gary Herbert to do the same.
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And for the same-sex couples who have lived through a wave of emotions, the show of support from the federal government provided validation and turned the rally into a raucous celebration.
Among the hundreds of people who packed the capitol rotunda for the midday rally were Seth Anderson and Michael Ferguson, the first gay couple to legally marry in Utah following the Dec. 20 ruling.
They said they were elated to hear they would be allowed to file taxes jointly and enjoy the benefits afforded any married couples.
“Our apartment burst into celebratory anthems of Cher and Beyoncé,” said Seth Anderson about his reaction to Holder’s statement. “It is a great feeling to know the federal government stands with us, especially in a state that has for years tried to exclude us.”
People held signs that read, “Two moms make a right,” ”Love is love” and “Marriage is a human right – not a heterosexual privilege” and “We are Family” played through loudspeakers.
President Barack Obama welcomed Holder’s determination, said White House spokesman Jay Carney. He said he didn’t know whether Obama specifically discussed the issue with Holder before the decision, but added the President has publicly expressed his support for same-sex marriage and equal rights for all Americans. Obama publicly came out in support of gay marriage in May 2012.
Holder’s decision came days after Utah officials said they would not recognize the marriages.
The office of Gov. Gary Herbert told state agencies this week to put a freeze on proceeding with any new benefits for the newly married gay and lesbian couples until the courts sort out the matter. But the state attorney general’s office has told local clerks to finish paperwork for same-sex marriages completed before the Supreme Court issued a temporary halt.
In a statement Friday afternoon, Herbert’s office issued a statement that said Holder’s announcement was unsurprising, but state officers should comply with federal law if they’re providing federal services.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes did not have an immediate comment on Holder’s announcement.
The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will consider the long-term question of whether gay couples have a right to marry in Utah. The state’s voters approved the ban in 2004.
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