Metro Weekly

Obama administration will recognize Michigan’s legally married same-sex couples

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER AT THE NATIONAL COLLEGIATE PREPARATORY PUBLIC CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL COMMENCEMENT

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Friday that the Obama administration will recognize the more than 300 same-sex couples legally married in Michigan before the intervention of a federal appeals court. 

“I have determined that the same-sex marriages performed last Saturday in Michigan will be recognized by the federal government,” Holder said in a statement. “These families will be eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages. The Governor of Michigan has made clear that the marriages that took place on Saturday were lawful and valid when entered into, although Michigan will not extend state rights and benefits tied to these marriages pending further legal proceedings.”

Holder’s statement comes after Gov. Rick Snyder (R) announced 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.

Holder’s decision in Michigan mirrors one made in a similar case in Utah, where the Obama 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. 

“For purposes of federal law, as I announced in January with respect to similarly situated same-sex couples in Utah, these Michigan couples will not be asked to wait for further resolution in the courts before they may seek federal benefits to which they are entitled,” Holder said.

“Last June’s decision by the Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor was a victory for equal protection under the law and a historic step toward equality for all American families,” Holder continued. “The Department of Justice continues to work with its federal partners to implement this decision across the government. And we will remain steadfast in our commitment to realizing our country’s founding ideals of equality, opportunity, and justice for all.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 57 same-sex marriage lawsuits have been filed in 27 states, with 19 in state courts and 38 in federal courts, totaling nearly 250 plaintiffs. Since the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last June, same-sex marriage has won in three state courts and eight federal courts, with zero losses.

[Editor’s Note: Due to a sourcing error, the original post incorrectly stated the total number of plaintiffs challenging same-sex marriage bans across the United States.]

[Photo: Eric Holder. Credit: Amy Mathers/Justice Department.]

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Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's former political editor and White House correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @JustinCSnow.

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