Attorney General Eric Holder is recognizing the marriages of more than 1,000 same-sex couples in Utah that took place before the Supreme Court put those unions on hold.
Holder's action will enable the government to extend eligibility for federal benefits to these couples.
The attorney general says families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their benefits while the courts decide the issue of same-sex marriage in Utah.
More than 1,000 gay and lesbian couples took home marriage licenses from local clerks after a federal judge overturned Utah's same-sex marriage ban on Dec. 20. Utah voters approved the ban in 2004.
On Thursday, the nation's largest gay rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, had asked the federal government to act.