Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Michigan.
Webmaster's thought. Reactions by
Christian groups to the District Court ruling.
State refuses to recognize 323 legal marriages.
Federal government does recognize marriages.
The acronym "LGBT" used throughout this web site refers
to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community.
The acronym "SSM" refers to same-sex marriage.
District Courts in Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia have issued rulings legalizing same-sex marriage in their state. All have been stayed so that same-sex couples cannot currently be married. Professor Tobias' comment would probably imply that if one or more of these cases is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and if the Court grants certiorari -- decides to hear the appeal -- then the court would hand down its decision during 2015-JUN. We are guessing that it will be a usual 5 to 4 decision, although we don't have the foggiest idea whether the ruling will be positive or negative. It is unclear whether the ruling would be applied only to the state(s) involved or for the country as a whole. If their ruling is positive and legalized same-sex marriage across the country as the court did in 1967 for interracial marriages, it would be great timing if they handed down their ruling on a specific day: Friday, 2015-JUN-26.
That would be both:
- The 12th anniversary of the Lawrence v. Texas ruling by the court that declared state laws criminalizing same-gender sexual behavior to be void, and unenforceable.
- The 2nd anniversary of the Windsor v. United States ruling by the same court that declared the main section of the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional. That decision triggered this recent series of decisions in federal court.
Then JUN-26 could become an annual event -- a happy one for some people, and sad for others -- to recall the multi-decade fight to bring marriage equality to the United States.
Reactions by conservative Christian sources:
- Culture News, a conservative Christian information source, commented:
"Late Friday, a single federal judge negated the Michigan voters' decision in 2004 to define marriage as between one man and one woman ..." 4
Their implication seems to be that a single judge should not overrule the votes of 2.7 million citizens in Michigan who voted to approve anti-same-sex marriage amendment for the state constitution back in 2004. But that is how the federal court system works. If a single judge at a District Court perceives that a state or law or constitutional amendment violates a section of the U.S. Constitution, then it is their duty to declare the law or amendment to be unconstitutional. If either the defendant(s) or plaintiff(s) in the case is displeased with ruling, they can appeal it to a three judge panel of the area's U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If they are displeased with the three judge panel's ruling, they can appeal it to the full Court of Appeals. If they are displeased with the full court's decision, they can try to appeal that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Before same-sex couples in Michigan could resume marrying, it is likely that three levels of federal courts involving about 20 judges and justices will be involved in the decision.
It is important to recall that since 2013-DEC-20, five other judges in federal District Courts across the country have gone through the same process as Judge Friedman. All concluded that their local state constitutional amendments that banned same-sex marriages conflict with the U.S. Constitution, have declared the latter unconstitutional, and declared marriages for same-sex couples legal.
Gary Glenn is the president of the American Family Association of Michigan. In 2004, he co-authored the Michigan Marriage Amendment to the state Constitution that prohibited same-sex marriage. He was unhappy at the District Court ruling. He does not seem to be aware of how the federal court system works as described above. He said:
"One Detroit lawyer in a black robe doesn’t have legitimate constitutional or moral authority to overturn either natural law or the vote of 2.7 million Michigan voters who placed the  Marriage Protection Amendment in our state constitution."
"This one political elitist put his own personal views above the will of the people, arrogantly ruling that all 2.7 million voters were ‘irrational’ in their common sense belief that the ideal environment for every child is having both a mother and a father committed to each other and to their children in marriage. We support Attorney General Bill Schuette in his appeal to overturn this illegitimate decision that has at least temporarily stripped Michigan citizens of the full measure and impact of their voting rights." 5
- Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron wrote a statement for the Michigan Catholic Conference -- composed of the Roman Catholic bishops in the state. He wrote:
"As I said with my brother bishops in Michigan, marriage has come to us as a gift of God in establishing the order of nature. The Catholic community in southeast Michigan will continue to give witness to the truth that marriage is between one man and one woman, which is the foundation for the flourishing of society." 5
South-east Michigan would include Detroit and the surrounding suburbs.
Presumably, by "Catholic community" he is referring to both the hierarchy and the laity. He may not be aware that many polls show that the majority of American Catholics support same-sex marriage. 6,7
- The Family Research Council is a conservative Christian para-church organization, which has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group. 8 Its president, Tony Perkins, said:
"This judicial activist stampede to redefine marriage is making a mockery of the ideals that our Founding Fathers stood for. The Left continues to push their social agenda into the courtrooms to demand the change that voters won't give them. With their ballot box options very limited, these activists have focused their attention on the federal bench -- raising the eyebrows and ire of the very Americans they hoped to persuade." 9
Perkins is correct when he implied that the Founding Fathers would have been shocked at the idea of two men or two women marrying. They lived two centuries before the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from their list of mental illnesses. At the time that the Founding Fathers were alive, sexually active homosexuals were typically rounded up and executed by the state. 10
The national and state-wide Republican Party is opposed to marriage equality, with very few state senators and representatives in favor of marriage for same-sex couples. Almost all of the 28 states that ban same-sex marriage have constitutional amendments in place that would require a very time-consuming process to appeal. The courts are now an attractive path to seek marriage equality quickly, particularly in politically conservative and highly religious areas of the country where it would take perhaps a decade more for the majority of voters to favor marriage equality.
The 2013-JUN decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Windsor v. United States triggered the current flurry of lawsuits through federal district courts and resulted in rulings in favor of legalizing marriage for same-sex couples in six states since 2013-DEC: Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
- The National Organization for Marriage issued a statement about the District Court decision in Michigan. Its president, Brian Brown, wrote:
"Activist judges in the federal courts are waging an all-out assault on marriage, issuing rulings to redefine this foundational institution in violation of U.S. Supreme Court precedent and the rule of law. This latest example in Michigan gives us the spectacle of a single federal judge deciding that he knows better than the people of Michigan who voted overwhelmingly to preserve marriage, and has imposed his will in defiance of the sovereign right of the State of Michigan to define marriage and in violation of U.S. Supreme Court rulings." 9,11
"rfong" posted a comment to the article from which the above quote was taken. She/he wrote:
"In this case, the judge does know better than Michigan voters. A mob of self-interested voters can vote for any state law they like, but that law still needs to align with the US Constitution. Sovereignty does not include policies outside the bounds of Constitutional Law, which is why the Supreme Court struck down state bans on interracial marriage, and the criminalizing of homosexuality.
These proponents of SSM bans need to think up some new arguments. Federal judges around the US are taking their cues FROM the Supreme Court's trashing of DOMA and are finally righting a host [of] Constitutional wrongs enacted by reactionary religionists in the 1990s. These people are now very much in decline and will only continue to be as the decades pass." 11
2014-MAR-25/26: Governor Rick Snyder announces that Michigan will not recognize same-sex marriages:
On March 25, Equality Michigan -- a pro SSM group -- held a press conference with some Michigan legislators and LGBT community leaders. They presented over 14,000 signatures on a petition 12 asking Governor Snyder and Attorney General Schuette to drop their appeal of the DeBoer v. Snyder case. By the morning of MAR-27, there were 18,494 signatures on the petition.
The District Court ruling legalized same-sex marriages in Michigan on Friday, MAR-21. There were 323 same-sex couples who went to a county office and picked up a marriage license. Close to 300 were married before the court's ruling was stayed. Although these couples were legally married, Governor Rick Snyder announced on MAR-26 that the State of Michigan would ignore the court order and will not recognize the marriage licenses until the current appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is concluded. The married couples will receive none of the state benefits and protections for themselves or their children. They will continue to be recognized by the state as "legal strangers" -- as roommates.
East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett and Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum have sent a joint request to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. It said in part:
"We are writing to request that you help lift this pall by declaring that the aforementioned marriages, entered into prior to the issuance of the Sixth Circuit's temporary stay, will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits. You took similar action to clarify the federal status of marriages entered into in Utah following the stay of a district court ruling in Kitchen v. Herbert. We ask only that you do the same for Michigan couples." 13
2014-MAR-28: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder confirms federal government will recognize 323 marriages:
On Friday, Holder announced that the federal government will recognize the marriages entered into on Saturday, MAR-22. This means that these couples now have access to the 1,138 federal benefits and protections on a par with opposite-sex married couples. He said:
"I have determined that the same-sex marriages performed last Saturday in Michigan will be recognized by the federal government. These families will be eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages. The Governor of Michigan has made clear that the marriages that took place on Saturday were lawful and valid when entered into, although Michigan will not extend state rights and benefits tied to these marriages pending further legal proceedings. For purposes of federal law, as I announced in January with respect to similarly situated same-sex couples in Utah, these Michigan couples will not be asked to wait for further resolution in the courts before they may seek federal benefits to which they are entitled.
Last June’s decision by the [U.S.] Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor was a victory for equal protection under the law and a historic step toward equality for all American families. The Department of Justice continues to work with its federal partners to implement this decision across the government. And we will remain steadfast in our commitment to realizing our country’s founding ideals of equality, opportunity, and justice for all." 14
The Executive Director of Equality Michigan, Emily Dievendorf, issued a statement:
"Equality Michigan appreciates US Attorney General Holder and the US Justice Department doing the right thing by recognizing these legally performed marriages. As Michigan's Governor said, these marriages were performed legally, and are valid. It is unfortunate that [Governor] Snyder and [State Attorney General] Schuette don't believe that the legality of these marriages translate into the extension of equal rights and benefits to the 600+ LGBT citizens covered by these legal documents that honor their commitment to their life partners."
"The United States Government has set a worthy path for Michigan to follow. Allowing these families to access the rights and benefits afforded married couples is the moral and legal thing to do. Equality Michigan is calling on our members to call Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's office and ask him to drop the appeal. Michiganders agree, it is time for the second-class treatment of LGBT families in Michigan to finally end." 15
More news is inevitable
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Lisa Rein, "Hundreds of same-sex couples wed in Michigan before appeals court issues stay," Washington Post, 2014-MAR-22, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
- The phrase "one is too many" is perhaps the most infamous statement ever issued by a Canadian bureaucrat. However it is worth remembering and should be taught to at least all North American students. It was uttered by Fredrick Blair who was in charge of immigration to Canada during World War II. A group of 900 Jews were on board a German ship the SS St Louis. They had fled Europe trying to escape the Nazi Holocaust, and attempted to enter Cuba, the U.S., Canada, and other countries as refugees. Canada refused to admit them and had the ship return to Europe where about 225 to 254 are believed to have died, mainly by being exterminated by the Nazi death camps. See: Lucy Daltroff, "Canada's got talent - just look at their Diversity," The Jewish Chronicle Online, 2011-MAY-19, at: http://www.thejc.com/
- "Gay couples rush to wed a day after Michigan ban lifted," The Toronto Star, 2014-MAR-23, at: http://www.thestar.com/
- "Suddenly "Gay Marriages" commence in Michigan," Culture News, 2014-MAR-22, at: http://culturecampaign.blogspot.ca/
- Oralandar Brand-Williams and Mark Hicks," "Gay marriage ban struck down," The Detroit News, at: http://www.detroitnews.com/
- "Poll: majority of Catholics who attend Mass weekly support same-sex marriage, women’s ordination," Catholic World News, 2012-OCT-07, at: http://www.catholicculture.org/
- Jonathan Capehart, "Catholics still lead way on gay marriage," Washington Post, 2014-FEB-11, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
- David Demirbilek, "Southern Poverty Law Center repeats 'hate group' claim about Family Research Council," Daily Caller, 2012-SEP-13, at: http://dailycaller.com/
- Khalil Al Hajal, "National groups on both sides of gay marriage debate speak up on Michigan ruling," MLive, 2014-MAR-22, at: http://www.mlive.com/
- Louis Crompton, "Homosexuals and the Death Penalty in Colonial America, University of Nebraska, 1976-JAN-01, at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/
- Anugrah Kumar, "Judge Strikes Down Michigan's Ban on Same-Sex Marriage; Calls It Discriminatory," Christian Post, 2014-MAR-22, at: http://global.christianpost.com/
- "Drop the appeal against marriage equality in Michigan,"
Equality Michigan, at: http://action.equalitymi.org/
- Barb Byrum, letter to Eric H. Holder, Jr, 2014-MAR-24, at: http://www.equalitymi.org/
- Eric Holder, "Statement by Attorney General Eric Holder on Federal Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages in Michigan," Department of Justice, 2014-MAR-18, at: http://www.justice.gov/
- Emily Dievendorf, email from Equality Michigan on 2014-MAR-28.
Copyright © by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initially posted: 2014-MAR-23
Latest update: 2014-MAR-28
Author: B.A. Robinson