LGBT — January 15, 2015 at 1:47 pm

Federal judge compels Michigan to recognize 300 same-sex couples married in March 2014


“What the state has joined together, it may not put asunder.”

Connie Greer and Diane VanDorn of Ann Arbor (formerly Dexter). Read about their story HERE.

In a huge rebuke to Gov. Rick Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette, and anti-LGBT homophobes in Michigan, a federal judge today ruled that the state of Michigan must recognize the marriages of the nearly 300 same-sex couples that were married last March. (See our photoblog of that joyous day HERE.)

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith wrote:

The fundamental question in this case is whether officials of the State of Michigan are violating the United States Constitution by refusing to recognize the marital status of same-sex couples whose marriages were solemnized pursuant to Michigan marriage licenses issued in accordance with Michigan law in effect at the time of the marriages. This Court concludes that the continued legal validity of an individual’s marital status in such circumstances is a fundamental right comprehended within the liberty protected under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 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 — a constitutional hurdle that the defense does not even attempt to surmount. In these circumstances, what the state has joined together, it may not put asunder.

You can read the entire opinion HERE.

The state, of course, has no compelling interest other than to trample on the rights of LGBT couples and relegate them and their marriages to second class (or worse) status.

Here’s a statement on the ruling from the Michigan ACLU:

These marriages are cherished and valid—same as any other—and it’s only right that the courts and our country recognize as much. 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.

Emily Dievendorf, Executive Director of Equality Michigan, had this to say:

Equality Michigan is thrilled for the over 300 couples who today saw our courts finally do what our state leaders refuse to do – recognize that their love and relationships deserve equal recognition under the law. While the state will likely appeal, and the battle is not yet over, this is an instrumental step in our path toward securing the freedom to marry for all families in Michigan. We especially appreciate that the judge recognized the urgency behind this matter and did not wait for the Supreme Court to act. The longer Michigan families are denied the freedom to marry, the more harm is done. This case is a reminder that there are real people being directly impacted by the Attorney General’s persistent effort to freeze progress.

Here’s House Democratic Floor Leader Sam Singh:

I am very happy to see Judge Goldsmith make this ruling today. I’m proud that Ingham County issued licenses last March to these loving couples and was honored to witness some of these wedding ceremonies in person. Last year, I and a number of my colleagues introduced a resolution calling on the governor to recognize these legally married couples. It’s time for Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette to stop wasting taxpayer money in an effort to defend discrimination. They should allow this ruling to stand and not seek an appeal. I celebrate this ruling with these couples and look forward to a Supreme Court decision in the coming months that will make marriage equality the law of the land.

It’s a big step in the right direction. We are all hoping the U.S. Supreme Court decides to take up the case filed by Michigan residents April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse and will decide this issue for the whole country once and for all. This is likely to be decided when they conference tomorrow.

Michigan is one only a handful of states – 14 out of 50 states plus Washington, D.C. – to deny our LGBT citizens this basic civil right as you can see from this map from Freedom to Marry:

[Photo by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog.]