The US Attorney General has responded to calls to say Utah married same-sex couples would be treated as married by the federal government, despite a directive from the state Governor that they would not.

Between 20 December and 6 January, some 1,300 couples married in the state as a US District Judge ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage violated the state’s constitution.

The US Supreme Court on Monday put a stay on equal marriage in the US state of Utah, forbidding same-sex couples from being issued with marriage licences in the state during an appeal against a ruling to allow them.

The Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes advised Governor Gary Herbert that marriages between gay couples who married in that short period should not be recognised by the state for benefits purposes.

Yesterday the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) called on US Attorney General Eric Holder to recognise the couples as married, in order to allow them to receive marriage benefits.

Holder today responded to say that those couples who are already married will be treated as married by the federal Government for the purpose of receiving benefits.

In a video posted on the Department of Justice’s website, Holder sets out that, federally, marriages will be recognised as valid.

He says: “Last June, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision — in United States v. Windsor — holding that Americans in same-sex marriages are entitled to equal protection and equal treatment under the law. This ruling marked a historic step toward equality for all American families. And since the day it was handed down, the Department of Justice has been working tirelessly to implement it in both letter and spirit — moving to extend — federal benefits to married same-sex couples as swiftly and smoothly as possible.

“Recently, an administrative step by the court has cast doubt on same-sex marriages that have been performed in the state of Utah. And the governor has announced that the state will not recognize these marriages pending additional court action.

“In the meantime, I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages.

“These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds. 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 in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages.”