Washington (AFP) - The US government announced Saturday it would recognize same sex marriages in six more states, following an earlier Supreme Court decision not to take up the debate.
The announcement from Attorney General Eric Holder means gay and lesbian married couples in those states will have the same legal rights and federal benefits as heterosexual couples.
The latest decision covers Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming, and comes on the heels of a similar decision last week that extended federal recognition to seven states.
Holder's announcement "brings the total number of states where same sex couples are recognized by the federal government to 32, plus the District of Columbia," the Justice Department said.
"With each new state where same sex marriages are legally recognized, our nation moves closer to achieving of full equality for all Americans," Holder said.
"We are acting as quickly as possible with agencies throughout the government to ensure that same sex married couples in these states receive the fullest array of benefits allowable under federal law."
The statement said Holder had also determined the government would legally recognize same sex marriages in two states, Indiana and Wisconsin, conducted in June. Court battles over gay marriage bans in those states are ongoing.
Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court snubbed appeals from several states where state-level bans on gay marriage had been deemed unconstitutional.
Marriages in those 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 five states can now have their unions recognized.
The number of states legalizing gay unions is expected to increase.