Federal appeals court orders halt to same-sex marriages in Michigan

Same-sex marriages were placed on hold indefinitely in Michigan by a federal appeals court Tuesday.

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In a 2-1 decision, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the state’s request to halt same-sex marriages in Michigan while a U.S. District Court decision striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban is appealed. The decision by the federal appeals court comes after U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman found a state constitutional amendment approved by Michigan voters in 2004 defining marriage as between a man and a woman in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in a ruling handed down last week. With no stay noted in Friedman’s decision, several Michigan counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Saturday before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay. That stay has now been extended until a final ruling by the appeals court, mirroring decisions made by appeals courts in other states appealing federal court decisions striking down same-sex marriage bans. “There is no apparent basis to distinguish this case or to balance the equities any differently than the Supreme Court did in Kitchen, wrote Circuit Judge John Rogers and U.S. District Court Judge Karen Caldwell, noting the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to halt same-sex marriages in Utah. “Furthermore, several district courts that have struck down laws prohibiting same-sex marriage similar to the Michigan amendment at issue here have also granted requests for stays made by state defendants.” In her dissent, however, Circuit Judge Helene White wrote that a stay was not warranted because the state has not demonstrated serious questions on the merits or that irreparable harm inflicted on others by not issuing the stay outweighs the harm that would be inflicted by issuing the stay. Moreover, she writes that the Supreme Court’s decision in Utah was issued without noting its reasoning, thus offering little guidance to the case in Michigan.

Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's political editor and White House correspondent. He can be reached at jsnow@metroweekly.com.

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