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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 16, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 03
Federal judge orders Michigan to recognize 300 same-sex marriages
Section One
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Federal judge orders Michigan to recognize 300 same-sex marriages

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A federal judge has ordered the state of Michigan to recognize some 300 same-sex marriages that were performed after the state's marriage ban was struck down and before the ruling was stayed by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a January 15 ruling, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith said that the marriages were legally performed and the couples have a 'fundamental right' to state recognition.

'In these circumstances, what the state has joined together, it may not put asunder,' Goldsmith wrote, paraphrasing a biblical verse that condemns those who breakup marriages.

The case involved a lawsuit filed by eight same-sex couples who got married last March after a federal judge struck down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage. The next day, the Sixth Circuit put the judge's decision on hold.

About 300 couples were married before the appellate court stepped in to stay the district judge's ruling. The Sixth Circuit subsequently reversed the district judge's ruling, and the state of Michigan has refused to recognize the marriages.

Goldsmith said the state has no legal right to refuse recognition to legally married same-sex couples.

'This Court concludes that the continued legal validity of an individual's marital status in such circumstances is a fundamental right ... under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.,' Goldsmith wrote.

'Even though the court decision that required Michigan to allow same-sex couples to marry has now been reversed on appeal, the same-sex couples who married in Michigan during the brief period when such marriages were authorized acquired a status that state officials may not ignore absent some compelling interest.'

It is 'irrelevant' whether the couples had a constitutional right to marry in the first place, Goldsmith added, since the marriage licenses had been legally issued and the state 'cannot withdraw the status that it has awarded, even if the couples had no right to demand to be married in the first place.'

To rule otherwise, Goldsmith wrote, 'could catastrophically undermine the stability that marriage seeks to create.'

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who fought recognition of the marriages, said the U.S. Supreme Court would ultimately have to settle the issue.

'We are reviewing Judge Goldsmith's decision, but as I have said repeatedly, the sooner the United States Supreme Court makes a decision on this issue the better it will be for Michigan and America,' he said.

Schuette did not say whether he would appeal Goldsmith's decision on the existing marriages.

The Sixth Circuit's decision, which went against the run of court cases upholding same-sex couples' right to marry, is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, but the justices have shown no eagerness to return to the issue after their landmark Windsor decision in 2012.

The ACLU hailed Goldsmith's decision.

'These marriages are cherished and valid - same as any other - and it's only right that the courts and our country recognize as much,' explained Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan LGBT Project.

'All these couples have ever asked is that they be able to love and protect their families without being discriminated against. With this decision, they can finally begin to move away from uncertainty and unfairness and toward the fulfillment of their shared dreams.'

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