The federal government has decided to recognize same-seating marriages performed in states where they are legal.
The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday announced that the first states in the country to recognize gay marriage will receive federal recognition.
More: The states of Arizona, Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington will receive the federal recognition on Aug. 15.
They will also receive the same benefits as other states that have already done so.
The states will receive their same-day processing times and will be allowed to file for federal marriage certificates by mid 2019.
“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the federal government recognizing the rights of same sex couples, it is clear that our nation and the world are moving in the right direction,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
“I am pleased to welcome this historic step to provide equal protection to all Americans and affirm our commitment to full inclusion of LGBTQ people in our country and our culture.”
States that already have legal same-gender marriage will be able to opt out of the rule if they so choose, Lynch said.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the department would use “every tool available” to enforce the federal marriage equality law, including litigation, education and enforcement.
In a statement, Johnson said his department “does not tolerate discrimination of any kind on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
That includes discrimination on the ground of gender identity, sexual orientation, gender expression, marital status, or disability.”
The decision is a major milestone in the history of same gender marriage in the United States.
It comes as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in the case of the same-bias lawsuit brought by the U.S. Justice Department against Texas that is expected to reach the high court next week.
Some states have legalized same-gendered marriages in recent years, including New Jersey and Minnesota, but only in a handful of cases, including one in Vermont.