Michigan's Gay Marriage Ban Reinstated — But Not Before Hundreds Of Same-Sex Couples Get Married
Talk about whirlwind romance: Hundreds of same-sex couples in Michigan lined up on Saturday to get married in the 24 hours that it was legal in the state. After a district judge ruled on Friday that the state's ban on gay marriage was illegal, clerks in four counties held special weekend hours to issue marriage licenses. But a day later, an appeals court placed a stay on the decision, thus reinstating the ban until Wednesday.
Still, by the time the stay was issued, about 300 same-sex couples had already been married. Many more were turned away after clerks' offices had closed for the day. Glenna DeJong and Marsha Caspar, who have been together for 27 years, were the first gay couple married in Michigan. "I figured in my lifetime it would happen," Caspar told the Associated Press. "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."
But since the stay, couples must wait in limbo until the middle of next week. On Wednesday, a judge will decide whether to allow gay marriages to continue or uphold the stay while the appeals process plays out. Those who did manage to get married quickly are faced with a different conundrum: What state benefits, if any, will they receive as married couples? In Utah, where a stay was also granted, couples were not issued state benefits, but in Michigan, the situation may be more straightforward. The Washington Post reports:
Anna Kirkland, a University of Michigan professor who submitted an expert report in the Michigan case, said people who have received licenses are "legally married" regardless of what state officials do.
"A ruling from a federal judge on the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause ... is binding on the state government," said Kirkland, a professor of women’s studies and political science. "It’s the law of the land until or unless the Supreme Court says otherwise."
State officials agree. "The stay stopped me from continuing," one county clerk told Michigan Live, but "these people that are married, are married."
Michigan is now the fifth state to have a ban on gay marriage struck down and then appealed, joining Oklahoma, Texas, Kentucky, and Virginia. 17 other states, plus the District of Columbia, issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples.