Michigan issues first marriage licenses to same-sex couples

BY Kayla Ruble  March 22, 2014 at 1:31 PM EST
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Cathy and Laurie Fisher were married at a Michigan courthouse on Saturday after a Federal judge decided on Friday that the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. (Credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Update: A federal appeals court has issued a stay that will bring same-sex marriages to a halt in Michigan until at least Wednesday. The order will give the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati more time to consider the state’s appeal of a decision to overturn Michigan’s 10-year ban on gay marriage.

Same-sex couples lined up outside courthouses in Michigan on Saturday to receive the first gay marriage licenses issued by the state, after a U.S. District court judge’s decision on Friday to overturn the state’s 10-year ban on gay marriage

Dozens of licenses were issued throughout the morning at courthouses in four of the state’s counties, with many anticipating the possibility that a stay on the decision would be issued at the request of the state’s attorney general.

Two women — Glenna Dejong, 53, and Marsha Caspar, 51 — were the first same-sex couple in Michigan to receive a marriage license.  The license was issued just after 8 a.m. on Saturday at an Ingham County courthouse near the state’s capital city.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman decided on Friday that the state’s voter supported ban from a 2004 election was unconstitutional.

The judge did not suspend his decision in order to wait for Attorney General Bill Schuette to make an appeal — something that has been done in other states. Schuette has asked for a stay on the order and was reportedly waiting to hear whether the 6th Circuit court would act on this request.

The lawsuit against the Michigan legislation was initiated in 2012 by Jayne Rowse and April Deboer, a couple seeking the ability to jointly adopt the three special needs children they are raising together. In Michigan, only married couples are permitted to jointly adopt children.

“It’s unbelievable,” DeBoer said, according to the Associated Press. “We got our day in court. We won.”

Rowse and Deboer did not testify in the case, but experts took the stand to testify that there is no difference in children of same-sex couples. The state argued in favor of respecting the Michigan Marriage Amendment Act which was supported by 59 percent of voters. The state used experts and studies to argue that children were negatively impacted when raised by same-sex parents.

“State defendants lost sight of what this case is truly about: people,” the judge said. “No court record of this proceeding could ever fully convey the personal sacrifice of these two plaintiffs who seek to ensure that the state may no longer impair the rights of their children and the thousands of others now being raised by same-sex couples.”

A spokesman for Republican Gov. Rick Snyder had said the governor would respect the judges decision and Michigan was not “obligated” to uphold the 2004 vote.

Marriage licenses are currently issued to same-sex couples in 17 states and the District of Columbia.