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Mich. governor to wait for appeals court before recognizing same-sex marriages

Mich. governor to wait for appeals court before recognizing same-sex marriages
Michigan gay marriage
Brianne Bowen, The Ann Arbor News (AP)
Mark Thiesmeyer and Matt Hook of Ann Arbor get married by Rev. Roger Pohl after more than 12 years together outside the Washtenaw County Administration Building in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, March 22, 2014, the day after a federal court struck down Michigan’s ban on gay marriage.

DETROIT — Michigan state agencies won’t immediately recognize hundreds of same-sex marriages that were performed in the hours before an appeals court put on hold a judge’s ruling that tossed out a state ban on gay marriage, the governor’s office said Sunday.

About 300 couples wed Saturday in four Michigan counties before a federal appeals court placed a stay on a Detroit federal judge’s decision overturning the state’s 2004 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

“We are extremely sensitive to feelings on this issue and are hoping for a swift resolution for all involved,” said Sara Wurfel, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder.

The decision blocks Michigan’s county clerks from issuing new same-sex marriage licenses until the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decides whether to extend the stay. That’s expected no sooner than Wednesday.

Asked if that would prevent, for example, a newlywed gay couple from applying for adoption of children on Monday, Wurfel said that Snyder and his administration consider everything to be on hold for now.

“We are not saying that we aren’t or won’t recognize the marriages that happened on Saturday, but that we’re awaiting further court or legal direction on this complex, unusual situation,” Wurfel told The Associated Press in an email Sunday.

“Either way, this can’t be construed one way or another as not recognizing the validity of the same sex marriages.”

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled that a 2004 voter-approved amendment to the Michigan Constitution that limited marriage to opposite-sex couples violated the U.S. Constitution’s right of equal protection.

The next day, clerks in Ingham, Oakland, Muskegon and Washtenaw counties opened their doors and began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Michigan has 83 counties. But later that day, the 6th Circuit froze the decision, saying the time-out would “allow a more reasoned consideration” of the state’s request to stop same-sex marriages.

The appeals court acted on a request from Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who defended Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban against a challenge from two suburban-Detroit women seeking the right to adopt each other’s children.

For many newlyweds, the short window of opportunity meant the end of years of waiting to gain the rights that opposite-sex couples already enjoy.

“It feels fantastic,” said Art Ledin-Bristol, 49, who drove from neighboring Kent County on Saturday to marry his partner, 40-year-old Corey Ledin-Bristol, in Muskegon County. They have been together 11 years and jointly raised Art Ledin-Bristol’s children, who are now ages 21, 18 and 15.

The children “are very excited and very happy,” he said Sunday afternoon. “They love Corey and see him as their parent.”

Ledin-Bristol said the two men were the last couple to be married before word of the appeal’s court stay reached the clerk’s office. He said it saddened him to see the disappointed couples behind them and to think about other same-sex couples who cannot marry for now.

“It’s a terribly sad situation for them and their families,” he said. “I hope it all gets taken care of so that everyone who wants to get married can do so.”

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