NOW   |  January 10, 2014

Justice Dept. to recognize Utah gay marriages

NBC’s Pete Williams reports on the Justice Department’s decision to recognize same-sex marriages licensed in Utah.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we have breaking news on pt same-sex marriage dispute in utah . let's go right to pete williams . what have you learned?

>> this is a bit of a surprise. there's been a question about the legal status of those marriages and now the attorney general, eric holder , says the federal government will recognize the marriages that were performed during the 17-day period in utah after a federal judge declared the state's ban unconstitutional and the u.s. supreme court put a hold on that judge's ruling. what the attorney general says in a statement that's just out, he says, these families, referring to those who got marriage licenses during that 17-day period, these families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds. he says in the days ahead, we will continue to coordinate across the federal government to ensure the timely provision of every federal benefit to which utah couples and couples throughout the country are entitled regardless of whether they are in same sex or opposite sex marriages. it was just monday that the supreme court said put a hold on the judge's order and after that, the state governor 's chief of staff put out a memo instructing the state to take no further action recognizing those marriages. that created a question about what the legal status of those marriages were in terms of the federal government . now we know the answer, the federal government will recognize those marriages so those people in utah , roughly 1,000 or so couples will be able to take advantage of federal benefits while this case is on appeal.

>> and pete, thank you for that update. in terms of things like, i don't know filing income taxes , et cetera , it's essential you have couples who on their federal returns will be able to file married filed jointly. how does that get resolved?

>> that's exactly right. of course, before the supreme court earlier this year decided the case of the windsor case, striking down a section of the defense of marriage act , it was just the opposite for many state couples. they were married for purposes of their state income taxes but not their federal income taxes . now we'll have the reverse for this period in utah until this whole thing gets resolved by the appeals court . it will be argued next month in the tenth circuit and then at some point, some case on same-sex marriage will get to the u.s. supreme court and it will decide this issue.

>> back to the supreme court we go. thank you so much. nbc news justice correspondent