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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Michigan.

Part 10: 2014-MAR-22: Reactions by
politicians, same-sex couples, etc.

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The acronym "LGBT" used throughout this web site refers
to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community.

The acronym "SSM" refers to same-sex marriage.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2014-MAR-22: Reactions to District Court ruling by political figures, same-sex couples, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, etc:

  • Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown arranged to have twelve employees come in and work overtime. She said:

"This this about making the service available to anyone who wanted it. With the amount of weddings I officiated, it was a windfall for Oakland County. It’s been a beautiful, beautiful day." 1

  • Same-sex couples, some with friends and family, started to gather outside the clerk’s office in Washtenaw County at 5:30 AM on Saturday. Three hours later, the doors opened and the first licenses were issued. Elizabeth Patten and Jonnie Terry of Ann Arbor were the first same-sex couple to obtain a license. They have been together for 28 years since they were in their early 20's. Shortly afterward. their marriage was solemnized by federal judge Judith Levyin an impromptu ceremony in the basement of the county building. Patten said:

    "It was really surreal. I don’t know if this is the wedding we imagined. But we are so pleased and honored to be a part of this process and have this opportunity today."

  • The Toronto Star newspaper reported that:

    "Glenna DeJong, 53, and Marsha Caspar, 51, of Lansing, were the first to arrive at the Ingham County Courthouse in the central Michigan city of Mason. DeJong and Caspar, who have been together for 27 years, received their licence and were married by Ingham county clerk Barb Byrum.

    'I figured in my lifetime it would happen,' Caspar said. 'But , when it happens now, it’s just overwhelming. I still can’t believe it. I don’t think it’s hit me yet. ... Come Monday, we might not be able to do it, so we knew we had a short window of time'."

Casper was correct. Very quickly, on the same day, Bill Schuette (R), the Attorney General of Michigan, sprang into action. Working on the basis that "one is too many," 2 he attempted to prevent as many same-sex couples from marrying as he could. He made an emergency request to the Court of Appeals, asking that they stay the lower court ruling as quickly as possible. The court granted a temporary stay the next day on Saturday, MAR-22. It expires on Wednesday, MAR-26, unless -- as is probable -- the court renews it.

  • Joy Yearout, a spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office, said that a permanent stay would keep Michigan's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage active until the Court of Appeals issues its ruling. She did not respond to a question asking if the state would recognize the new marriages that were solemnized on MAR-22 before the stay was imposed. She said:

    "The courts will have to sort it out."

She later said that her office expects that the Court of Appeals:

"... will issue a permanent stay, just as courts have ruled in similar cases across the country." 3

In this case, the word "permanent" probably means that it will be in place until at least the Court of Appeals has issued its ruling.

  • A county clerk was stationed at a Unitarian Universalist church in Muskegon in western Michigan. The clerk issued wedding licenses Saturday morning. They started up a couple of hours earlier than they had originally planned because they were aware that the Appeals Court might impose a stay at any time.

A stay to the District Court ruling was imposed by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on the next day. By that time, 323 well organized same-sex couples in Michigan had obtained marriage licenses and married. However, they had no absolute assurance that their marriages would be recognized by the state.

The general consensus by constitutional experts is that such marriages are legal. Approximately 36,000 gays, lesbians, and bisexuals married their same-sex partners in California between 2008-MAY when the state Supreme Court authorized SSMs and 2008-NOV when Proposition 8 was passed to forbid them. All their marriages were recognized by the state as valid even though new marriages by same-sex couples were not permitted after election day in 2008.

However, the state of Michigan decided to not recognize these 323 marriages, thus negatively affecting some of the couples' health insurance, adoption rights, etc. They did continue to have access to the 1.138 federal benefits and protections of marriage. 4

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  • Dana Nessel, the plaintiffs' lawyer, said that she was not shocked at the imposition of the temporary injunction. She said:

    "I am disappointed because it would have been great for people ... in all 83 counties [of Michigan] to be able to go in and get a marriage licence. Unfortunately only four [clerks’] offices were open because it was a Saturday, and they had to make special provisions." 3

  • The plaintiffs decided to not join the rush on Saturday morning. April DeBoer said:

    "We will be getting married when we know that our marriage is forever binding." 3

  • The Court of Appeals sent a one-page order to the plaintiff's lawyers to supply arguments as to why the temporary stay should not be extended beyond Wednesday. The order is addressed to:

    "April Deboer; Jane Rowse, individually and as parents and next friend of M.D.-R, R.D.-R and J.D-R, minors." 3

This emphasizes that the two mothers, April and Jane, are actually recognized by the state as the mother of only one or two of the couple's three children. The original goal of the couple's lawsuit was to facilitate making both mothers parents of all three children. It is nice for each of them to be considered the one or two "next friends" of their children, but it would be far more satisfying for them to be an actual "parent." In the case of a medical emergency, a child's "next friend" has no legal standing and cannot make decisions for the child.

  • Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) said.

    "In 2004, the citizens of Michigan recognized that [sexual] diversity in parenting is best for kids and families because moms and dads are not interchangeable. Michigan voters enshrined that decision in our state constitution, and their will should stand and be respected."

    Many supporters of marriage equality would argue that family headed by a same-sex couple is still composed of two adults with different personalities. strengths, talents, child-raising policies, likes, dislikes, backgrounds, interests, religious understandings, etc. There is still plenty of diversity in the leadership in a marriage of a same-sex couple. Also, in the ten years since the Michigan Marriage Amendment was passed by the voters, public opinion polls have shown that most voters in the state now support same-sex marriage.

  • Anna Kirkland, a professor of Women's Studies at the University of Michigan, was an expert witness in the District Court trial. She issued two rather confusing statements. She allegedly said that people who have received licenses are "legally married" regardless of what state officials do. We assume that they would be legally married only after having received their licenses and having their marriage solemnized.

She also said:

"A ruling from a federal judge on the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause [in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution] ... is binding on the state government. It’s the law of the land until or unless the Supreme Court says otherwise." 3

We assume that it would no longer be the law in Michigan if the Court of Appeals rules otherwise. But then, we are not constitutional experts.

  • Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, explained that Courts of Appeal must weigh in on these six cases. He suspects that the U.S. Supreme Court likely won't rule on appeal(s) from the Circuit Courts of Appeal until its next term, which starts in [2014-] October. He said that it is clear that the trend so far in the federal District Courts mirror results from public opinion polls. He said:

    "It's all in one direction right now."

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This topic is continued in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Lisa Rein, "Hundreds of same-sex couples wed in Michigan before appeals court issues stay," Washington Post, 2014-MAR-22, at:
  2. 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:
  3. "Gay couples rush to wed a day after Michigan ban lifted," The Toronto Star, 2014-MAR-23, at:
  4. "Michigan: 300 Same-Sex Marriages Are Ruled Valid Pending Appeal," The New York Times, 2015-JAN-15, at:

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Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Michigan > here

Copyright © 2014 & 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initially posted: 2014-MAR-23
Latest update: 2015-JAN-16
Author: B.A. Robinson
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