US to recognize gay marriage in seven more states

WASHINGTON DC, USA – The US government announced Friday, October 17, it would recognize same-sex marriages in 7 additional states, after the Supreme Court declined to take up the debate.

A total of 26 of the 50 US states, and the capital Washington, now legally recognize gay and lesbian marriages, giving them the same legal rights and federal benefits as married heterosexual couples.

"We will not delay in fulfilling our responsibility to afford every eligible couple, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, the full rights and responsibilities to which they are entitled," US Attorney General Eric Holder said in a video message.

"With their long-awaited unions, we are slowly drawing closer to full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans nationwide."

The 7 states affected by the Justice Department decision are Colorado, Indiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. (READ: Big rise in US support for gay marriage in past decade)

Holder said he had directed Justice Department lawyers to work with officials across the various government agencies to "ensure that all applicable federal benefits are extended to those couples as soon as possible."

Last week, the US Supreme Court snubbed appeals from Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin where state-level bans on gay marriage had been deemed unconstitutional. (READ: US Supreme Court clears way for gay marriage in more states)

Marriages in those 5 states had been on hold pending the court's decision on whether to hear the cases. The ruling means that same-sex couples in the 5 states can now have their unions recognized.

The number of states legalizing gay unions is expected to grow. (READ: Same-sex marriage, love and dissent–