Feds asked to recognize Indiana same-sex marriages

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. - PHOTO: Courtesy

Attorneys have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to step in on behalf of hundreds of same-sex couples who were wed before a federal appeals court stayed an order striking down Indiana's gay marriage ban.

The letter by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana asks Holder to issue a statement that the federal government will recognize the marriages as he did in Utah and Michigan, which would make Indiana's couples eligible for federal benefits for married couples.

The ACLU's move comes the same week that Gov. Mike Pence's office said the state wouldn't recognize the same marriages.

Separately on July 11, the 7th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago combined Indiana and Wisconsin's gay marriage cases and set them on an expedited schedule. Already, attorneys and activists have called on Holder to recognize the same-sex marriaged that took place in Wisconsin in June.

In Indiana, hundreds of couples were married from June 25, when a U.S. district court judge struck down the state's gay marriage ban, to June 27, when a federal appeals court stayed the decision.

Gov. Mike Pence's general counsel instructed state agencies last week not to recognize the marriages that were performed during that gap. The policy applies only to state agencies that report to Pence's office and would affect state services controlled by those agencies, such as food stamps or the ability to file jointly for state taxes.

Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, said that he believed the state's position was incorrect.

"These marriages were lawful and valid when they were entered into and we do not believe that they can be retroactively voided," Falk said in the letter, which was mailed to the attorney general's office on Friday.

Pence's office did not return phone calls and emails from The Associated Press seeking comment.