Michigan suspends recognition of legally married same-sex couples

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

Same-sex couples legally married in Michigan, prior to the intervention of a federal appeals court, had any rights associated with their nuptials suspended Wednesday.

According to Gov. Rick Snyder (R), the more than 300 marriages performed Saturday after a U.S. District Court judge found Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional and before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay putting the decision on hold will not be recognized by the state while the case is appealed. 

Although Snyder stated that those marriages were performed legally, he said in a statement that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to halt same-sex marriages from continuing pending a final verdict in the case reinstates Michigan law prohibiting same-sex marriage.

“In accordance with the law, the U.S. Circuit Court’s stay has the effect of suspending the benefits of marriage until further court rulings are issued on this matter,” Snyder said in a statement. “The couples with certificates of marriage from Michigan courthouses last Saturday were legally married and the marriage was valid when entered into. 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’s announcement 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 was extended indefinitely yesterday until a final ruling by the appeals court. 

Although same-sex couples legally married in Michigan will not be recognized by the state, it is not yet clear if they will be recognized by the federal government. In a similar case in Utah, theObama administration announced in January that the approximately 1,300 same-sex marriages performed in Utah between Dec. 20, 2013 — when a district court struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional — and Jan. 6, 2014 — when the U.S. Supreme Court halted further same-sex marriages in Utah pending an appeal — would be granted federal benefits. 

The Justice Department did not immediately return requests for comment on the case in Michigan.

[Photo: Rick Snyder. Credit: Michigan Governor's Office.]

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

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