Same-sex couples rushed to Michigan county clerk’s offices Saturday to get hitched a day after a judge overturned the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage, and several hundred managed to do so before an appeals court reinstituted the ban, at least temporarily.
The order by a federal appeals court in Cincinnati came after 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 license and were married by Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum.
“I figured in my lifetime it would happen,” Caspar said. “But now, when it happens now, it’s just overwhelming. I still can’t believe it. I don’t think it’s hit me yet.”
Similar nuptials followed one after another, at times en masse, in at least four of Michigan’s 83 counties. Those four — Oakland, Muskegon, Ingham and Washtenaw counties — issued more than 300 marriage licenses to same-sex couples Saturday.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an emergency stay request Friday after Friedman’s decision. Earlier Saturday, the court had given the plaintiffs in the case, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, until Tuesday to file a response to Schuette’s request for a stay. That order made no mention of staying Friedman’s order until Wednesday.
A similar situation arose in Utah, where a federal judge ruled in favor of gay marriage in December and denied a stay of his ruling. But the stay was ultimately granted by the U.S. Supreme Court after more than 1,000 couples were married.
“Given the experience in Utah, we expect our request for stay to be granted,” said Joy Yearout, a spokeswoman for Schuette.
“To allow a more reasoned consideration of the motion to stay, it is ordered that the district court’s judgment is temporarily stayed until Wednesday, March 26, 2014,” stated the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
A U.S. appeals court on Saturday placed a temporary hold on a federal judge’s ruling that struck down Michigan’s ban on gay marriage that was adopted by voters in 2004.
The judge said he was relying upon “the enduring principle that regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the [constitutional] guarantee of equal protection must prevail.” He found that the ban violated the right to equality of a lesbian couple, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, both nurses in Detroit hospitals. He did not rule on their separate claim that the ban violated their right to “due process.”
Although the outcome in this case followed a string of rulings by other federal trial judges striking down other states’ bans, Judge Friedman’s ruling was the first in that series which followed a full courtroom trial. The other decisions have come on pleas for temporary or preliminary rulings, based primarily upon legal arguments.
This was the first full-scale trial since the Supreme Court’s decision last June in United States v. Windsor, finding unconstitutional the federal Defense of Marriage Act’s ban on federal marital benefits for gay and lesbian couples. Although the Windsor decision expressly avoided ruling on the validity of same-sex marriage bans, as such, the reasoning of the majority in that ruling has been cited repeatedly by federal judges since then in dealing with state laws or constitutional provisions against such marriages. Judge Friedman, too, relied upon that reasoning.
Instead, the state urged the judge to respect the results of a 2004 election in which 59 percent of voters said marriage in Michigan can only be between a man and a woman. Conservative scholars also questioned the impact of same-sex parenting on children.
But experts testifying for Rowse and DeBoer said there were no differences between the kids of same-sex couples and the children raised by a man and woman. And the University of Texas took the extraordinary step of disavowing the testimony of sociology professor Mark Regnerus, who was a witness for Michigan.
After the U.S. Supreme Court intervened in Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert ordered state agencies to hold off on moving forward with any new benefits for the hundreds of same-sex couples who married during the three-week window until the courts resolved the issue. Agencies were told not to revoke anything already issued, such as a driver’s license with a new name, but were prohibited from approving any new marriages or benefits.
Utah made clear it was not ordering agencies to void the marriages, but that their validity would be decided by the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.