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

Part 14: 2014-NOV to now: Reactions to the
ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
affecting Michigan, as well as Kentucky, Ohio
and Tennessee.
District Court rules that 323 SSMs are legal.

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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
concerning marriage equality in Michigan

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2014-NOV-06: Response by the Catholic hierarchy:

Although most national polls show that Roman Catholic support for same-sex marriage is slightly higher than the general population, the Catholic hierarchy is unalterably and universally opposed to marriage equality.

Bishop John Doerfler heads the Diocese of Marquette. It is a suffragan diocese that covers upper peninsula of Michigan. He issued a statement in support of the 6th Circuit Court's ruling favoring the bans on same-sex marriage, saying:

"Strong marriages and family life are foundation stones for our society. The appellate court decision is a welcome support of marriage."

The Michigan Catholic Conference also issued a statement in response to the Court ruling. It said:

"Today's ruling is a joyous occasion for many communities and families across the state that have sought to protect the traditional definition of marriage. Those who ruled in the majority deserve applause for applying the rule of law and for recognizing voter intent to secure one man and one woman in marriage. By upholding the Michigan Marriage Amendment, the Court has ruled to protect a timeless institution. We appreciate Attorney General Bill Schuette in his tireless efforts to fulfill his oath of office by defending the 2004 voter-approved marriage amendment.

"It must also be restated, because so many seek to misinterpret the teachings of the Catholic Church, that support for marriage between one man and one woman in no way diminishes the dignity and worth that must be afforded to all human persons, regardless of orientation. Michigan Catholic Conference will continue to affirm the truth about marriage and support any necessary legal efforts that defend the Michigan Marriage Amendment." 1

Shortly after adding the above statements to this essay, we received an email from a visitor to this web site, saying:

  • Re: Bishop John Doerfler's statement: How exactly does the denial of marriage to a group of loving same-sex couples who are anxious to marry result in a strengthening of marriage?

  • Re: The Michigan Catholic Conference's statement: How exactly does a court ruling that finds loving same-sex couples to be unworthy of marriage preserve those couples' "dignity and worth." 1

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2014-NOV-07: District Court Judge in West Virginia commented on the 6th Circuit Court's ruling in DeBoer v. Snyder:

Chief Judge Robert C. Chambers of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. Huntington Division issued a ruling in the lawsuit McGee et al. v. Cole et al. 2 That document formally nullified West Virginia's constitutional ban of marriages by same-sex couples.

Judge Chamber's ruling contained an interesting footnote starting at the bottom of Page 16 and continued at the bottom of Page 17. He commented on the NOV-06 decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in DeBoer v. Snyder. The DeBoer ruling concluded that bans on marriages by same-sex couples should not be challenged in the courts, but should be left to public opinion or legislative processes to eventually cause a repeal of the bans. That, of course, could easily take two decades in some conservative states. His footnote reads:

"The Sixth Circuit in DeBoer v. Snyder, ... reached the opposite result. The majority there noted two rationales in support of the marriage bans. ... First, the court found the marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee to be rooted in the States’ interest in regulating procreation by providing incentives for parents to remain together. ... But the opinion then conceded that this view of marriage can no longer be sustained, that marriage now serves 'another value -- to solemnize relationships characterized by love, affection, and commitment.' ... Denying marital status and its benefits to a couple that cannot procreate does nothing to further the original interest of regulating procreation and irrationally excludes the couple from the latter purpose of marriage. Second, the majority in DeBoer implores opponents of the marriage bans to proceed slowly, through the legislative process, and justifies the bans by asserting the States’ right to take a “wait and see” approach. ... This approach, however, fails to recognize the role of courts in the democratic process. It is the duty of the judiciary to examine government action through the lens of the Constitution’s protection of individual freedom. Courts cannot avoid or deny this duty just because it arises during the contentious public debate that often accompanies the evolution of policy making throughout the states. Judges may not simultaneously find a right violated yet defer to an uncertain future remedy voluntarily undertaken by the violators."

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2014-NOV: Other reactions to the 6th Circuit Court ruling:

They were mostly positive. People on both sides anticipate an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court who might issue a ruling that affects more than the four states involved in DeBoer v. Snyder and might either permit or forbid same-sex marriage across the entire country.

  • Chase Strangio, an attorney at the American Civil Liberty Association's Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said that the ruling is:

    "... an outlier that‚€™s incompatible with the 50 other rulings that uphold fairness for all families. ... We will be filing for Supreme Court review right away and hope that through this deeply disappointing ruling we will be able to bring a uniform rule of equality to the entire country."

  • Freedom To Marry -- a pro-equality group -- comments:

    "On November 6, the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit¬ ruled against the freedom to marry, reversing a lower court ruling in this federal case seeking the freedom to marry in Michigan. The out-of-step decision ignores nearly 50 pro-marriage rulings since June 2013. It's time for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn this decision and rule in favor of the freedom to marry nationwide. 3

  • Brian Brown is president of the National Organization for Marriage -- an anti-marriage equality group. said:

    "We are ecstatic. The other side was counting their chickens before they‚€™re hatched.:

    Referring to the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal on OCT-06 to consider appeals from three U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, he said:

    "The justices of the Supreme Court were derelict in their duty when they refused to review the marriage cases previously before them. They now have no excuse.4

  • Carole Stanyar, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, apparently referring to the expected appeal said:

    "Onward and upward. We‚€™re ready to go."

  • Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who supported the same-sex marriage in court, referred to the the appeal to the Supreme Court, said:

    "The sooner they rule, the better, for Michigan and the country."

  • U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, (D) who supports marriage equality, said:

    "I know in the long view of history it will only be a small setback in the ultimate pursuit of equality." 4

  • Tony Perkins, is president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian para-church organization, which has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group. 5 He said that the resent surge in support for conservatives in the mid-term elections indicates that support for marriage equality is stalling:

    "... ‚€œas Americans begin to experience and consider the consequences for religious freedom, free speech, and parental rights." 6

  • Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign -- a major pro-equality group -- wrote:

    "In the wake of this devastating decision and the losses equality faced in this week‚€™s election, we have a lot of work ahead of us. The time has come for full marriage equality, everywhere, for everyone." 7

  • The Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal defense group that specializes in lawsuits dealing with religious freedom -- including defending conservative Christians who seek the religious freedom to discriminate against the LGBT community. Byron Babione, a senior counsel, claims that the 6th Circuit Court's decision was consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Windsor vs. United States. He said:

    "While Windsor¬ struck down a crucial component of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, it left open the issue of state-level bans on gay marriage.

    The people of every state should remain free to affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman in their laws.

    The 6th Circuit's decision is consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court's acknowledgement in Windsor¬ that marriage law is the business of the states." 6

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2014-DEC-03: House Committee hearings on Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act:

The legislature's House Commerce Committee is scheduled to hear testimony to update the Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act to include the LGBT community. Allison VanKuiken, a Field Director for Freedom Michigan wrote:

"What happens this week is about so much more than a vote on a single piece of legislation. It’s about who we are as a state. And as a transgender Michigander, it’s about whether or not I’m protected under the law in the state I call home.

Until the laws of our state make it clear that Michigan is open for business, free from discrimination, our economy and businesses will suffer. And for LGBT people, every day without these protections is another day we must live in fear simply because of who we are.

Growing up in Michigan, I’ve always been taught to believe that if you work hard, you deserve the opportunity to make a living and provide for your family. Those are Michigan values—and now, it’s time for the laws of our state to reflect the values of our people." 8

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The next step?

Lyle Denniston in SCOTUSblog -- a web site that monitors activity of the U.S. Supreme Court -- wrote that the decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is:

"... precisely the kind of division of judgment that ordinarily will lead the Supreme Court to step in to resolve the split, especially on an issue of fundamental constitutional significance." 6

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2015-JAN-15: District Court ruled that 332 marriages by same-sex couples are legal:

On 2014-MAR-21, Judge Friedman, a President Reagan appointee, had issued a favorable ruling on same-sex marriage. Referring to the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, he wrote:

"... regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail." 8

On 2014-on MAR-22, engaged same-sex couples rushed to obtain marriage licenses and to be married. A court stay quickly suspended additional marriages. The state later refused to recognize these marriages, although the federal government did extend access to 1,138 federal benefits and protections to the couples and their children.

On 2015-JAN-15, Michigan District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith ruled that the 323 marriages were valid. He wrote that their marriages had:

"... acquired a status that state officials may not ignore, absent some compelling interest."

State lawyers argued that these marriages were in comd way "conditional" or "temporary." Judge Goldsmith rejected that argument, writing in his ruling:

"Defendants‚€™ notion that Plaintiffs‚€™ marriages were somehow 'conditionally valid' ... is made out of whole cloth. There is nothing in the record to indicate that the marriage licenses that Michigan county clerks issued to Plaintiffs contained any language that was conditional. Nor does Michigan law recognize any concept of a conditional marriage. ... Certainly nothing in federal law makes conditional a marriage prompted by a district court ruling that was unquestionably in effect when the marriage licenses were issued. ... Defendants must, therefore, go beyond the marriage context and rely on their argument that, as a general matter, a judgment that is reversed on appeal has no effect. Such a bald characterization of the law, however, is an oversimplified misstatement. ... Defendants have failed to provide a single court decision approving a state‚€™s effort to vitiate the marital status of a couple lawfully married under that state‚€™s law. By contrast, there is a long history of court decisions and legislative enactments, under a variety of theories, reflecting a national consensus rejecting the view that a person‚€™s marital status may be invalidated by a state after it was lawfully acquired under that state‚€™s law." 10

However, he put a 21-day stay on this ruling to allow the state to appeal his decisions. 11

On 2015-FEB-03, all of the 11 Democrats in the Michigan Senate wrote a letter to Governor Rick Snyder (R) asking him to not appeal the District Court's decision. 12

The next day, Governor Snyder announced that he would not appeal the District Court ruling. The couples' marriages are now considered valid. 12

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This topic is continued on 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. Aaron Boehm, "Catholic officials comment on recent gay marriage ruling," Upper Michigan's Source, 2014-NOV-07, at:
  2. Ruling in McGee et al. v. Cole et al., U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. Huntington Division, 2014-NOV-07, at:
  3. "DeBoer v. Snyder. What's Happening," Freedom to Marry, 2014-NOV, at:
  4. David Crary, "Joy, dismay as gay marriage advocates, opponents assess 6th Circuit ruling," LGBTQNATION, 2014-NOV-07, at:
  5. David Demirbilek, "Southern Poverty Law Center repeats 'hate group' claim about Family Research Council," Daily Caller, 2012-SEP-13, at:
  6. Michael Gryboski, "Sixth Circuit Decision to Uphold Gay Marriage Ban Part of Trend in Favor of Traditional Marriage, Conservatives Say," Christian Post, 2014-NOV-07, at:
  7. David Crary, "Joy, Dismay as 2 Sides Assess Gay-Marriage Ruling," 2014-NOV-07, at:
  8. Extracted from an Email from Freedom Michigan on 2014-DEC-01.
  9. Erik Eckholm, "Federal Judge Strikes Down Michigan‚€™s Ban on Same-Sex Marriage," The New York Times, 2014-MAR-21, at:
  10. Matt Baume, "4 Reasons SCOTUS May Have Taken the Michigan Case,", 2015-JAN-16, at:
  11. "Michigan: 300 Same-Sex Marriages Are Ruled Valid Pending Appeal," The New York Times, 2015-JAN-15, at:
  12. "Gov. Snyder: Michigan Will Recognize About 300 Gay Marriages," Time, 2015-FEB-04, 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-NOV-07
Latest update: 2015-JAN-19
Author: B.A. Robinson
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