Michigan holds off recognizing gay marriages during appeal

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 26, 2014 2:08 PM

By David Bailey

(Reuters) - Michigan is not recognizing same-sex marriages while the state appeals a federal judge's ruling lifting a ban on gay nuptials, Governor Rick Snyder said on Wednesday.

Clerks in four Michigan counties issued hundreds of marriage licenses to same-sex couples and performed weddings on Saturday after a federal judge late Friday ruled that the state's ban violated the U.S. Constitution.

But late Saturday afternoon, a federal appeals court suspended the decision by U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman until it rules on the state's appeal, casting newly wed couples into a legal limbo.

Governor Snyder, a Republican who is running for reelection this year, on Wednesday answered at least some of their questions, saying that the married same-sex couples would not receive state benefits of marriage until further court rulings. Snyder is declining to discuss his own position on gay marriage.

"Because the stay brings Michigan law on this issue back into effect, the rights tied to these marriages are suspended until the stay is lifted or Judge Friedman's decision is upheld on appeal," Snyder said in a statement.

Friedman's ruling was the latest in a series of decisions supporting the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry since the U.S. Supreme Court found in June that legally married same-sex couples were eligible for federal benefits.

Michigan's ban was challenged by a lesbian couple from the Detroit suburb of Hazel Park. April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse first challenged a Michigan adoption law that stopped them as single people from jointly adopting each other's children. They then added a challenge to the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

Seventeen states plus the District of Columbia now allow same-sex marriage, a number that could increase substantially if recent federal court decisions overturning bans in Michigan, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia are upheld.

All of those cases are suspended pending appeal.

The Obama administration said in January it would recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah and allow federal benefits to couples married there, though the state would not do so.

A county clerk in Michigan who issued licenses to same-sex couples and performed marriages on Saturday has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to certify that couples married before the suspension of the ruling was entered are eligible for federal benefits.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Grant McCool)