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.
Donna DeMarco and Lisa Ulrey were among the dozens of couples who married Saturday in Oakland County, northwest of Detroit.
DeMarco's reaction to Friday's federal recognition: "Cool."
"That's a major step," DeMarco said. "The federal government is making great strides with recognizing same-sex marriage. 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."
DeMarco said she and Ulrey have not yet applied for joint Social Security benefits.
"I guess we can now," she said, adding that the couple will jointly file federal taxes next year.