Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Michigan.
2014-MAR to AUG:
More reactions to the District Court ruling.
State refuses to recognize 323 legal marriages.
Federal government does recognize them.
6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals holds hearing.
The acronym "LGBT" used throughout this web site refers
to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community.
The acronym "SSM" refers to same-sex marriage.
Reactions by conservative Christian sources (Cont'd):
- 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." 1,2
"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." 2
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 3 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." 4
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." 5
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." 6
2014-AUG-06: "One Court, Three Judges, ... Four States" 7 and Four Lawsuits: Marathon hearing held for SSM cases in Michigan, etc.
A few words about the federal court system.
It is built like a pyramid:
- At the top of the structure is the U.S. Supreme Court. It can grant certiorari -- accept an appeal -- from any one of the 11 U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal, or from a state supreme court. It also has the authority to reject or delay such appeals. It can issue rulings that affect as few as one state or as many as all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They schedule their work on a yearly cycle, granting certiorari in December of each year, hearing the cases the next spring, and issuing their rulings in June. It is composed of nine Justices, of whom four are considered liberal and five conservatives. However, one of the conservative members, Justice Kennedy, tends to be liberal on social matters, particularly those related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
- The next level down are the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal. There are 12 of these courts. One handles cases from the District of Columbia. The remaining 11 courts handle cases appealed to it from as many as 9 states and two territories, and as few as three states. An appeal to one of these courts is typically first considered by a randomly selected panel of three judges. Their decision may be later appealed to the full Court of Appeal or to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- At the bottom level are the federal District Courts. There are typically two or more of these in each state. This is where many dozens of marriage equality lawsuits have been filed since the Supreme Courts' ruling in Windsor v. United States during 2013-JUN. That ruling declared a major section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. It opened the floodgates to additional lawsuits relating to marriage equality.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- 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/
- 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.
- Erik Eckholm, "One Court, Three Judges and Four States With Gay Marriage Cases." The New York Times, 2014-AUG-06, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
Copyright © by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initially posted: 2014-MAR-23
Latest update: 2014-NOV-20
Author: B.A. Robinson