WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government will recognize same-sex marriages in seven more states and extend federal benefits to those couples, the Justice Department said Friday.
The announcement comes one week after the U.S. Supreme Court let stand rulings from three appeals courts that struck down bans on gay and lesbian marriages in five states — Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. That order opened the door for same-sex couples in those states to get married, though it stopped short of resolving the national gay-marriage issue.
The states covered by Friday's announcement include the five directly affected by the Supreme Court order as well as Nevada and Colorado, where the Justice Department says subsequent rulings have allowed the federal government to recognize same-sex messages.
The move brings the total number of states where gay and lesbian marriages have federal recognition to 26, plus the District of Columbia. Also Friday, a federal judge in Arizona ruled that the state's ban on same-sex unions was unconstitutional.
"With their long-awaited unions, we are slowly drawing closer to full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans nationwide," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a video message.
But he said there are still too many places where same-sex partners cannot visit each other in the hospital or be recognized as rightful parents of adopted children.
He said the federal government would work to extend benefits to gay and lesbian couples "to the fullest extent allowed by federal law."
And if the Supreme Court decides to take up same-sex marriage directly, the Justice Department will "file a brief consistent with its past support for marriage equality," Holder said.