Same-sex couples married in Michigan celebrate anniversaries

Sheri Folta, left, and her wife, Cassandra Varner, who is director of communications for Affirmations, slice one of two anniversary cakes together, Sunday, March 22, 2015, at Affirmations in Ferndale, Mich. Brandy Baker, The Detroit News (AP)

Sheri Folta, left, and her wife, Cassandra Varner, who is director of communications for Affirmations, slice one of two anniversary cakes together, Sunday, March 22, 2015, at Affirmations in Ferndale, Mich.Brandy Baker, The Detroit News (AP)

Sheri Folta, left, and her wife, Cassandra Varner, who is director of communications for Affirmations, slice one of two anniversary cakes together, Sunday, March 22, 2015, at Affirmations in Ferndale, Mich.

DETROIT — Families and friends gathered Sunday in four Michigan counties to celebrate the anniversary of about 300 same-sex couples who wed last year during a brief legal window as a result of a challenge to Michigan’s constitutional ban on gay marriages.

The marriages took place March 22, 2014, in Ingham, Muskegon, Oakland and Washtenaw counties, where clerks chose to open their doors to accommodate couples. It happened in the hours between a federal district judge’s ruling overturning the state’s same-sex marriage ban and a federal appeals court decision freezing its implementation.

Now that case and others are before the U.S. Supreme Court, which hears oral arguments April 28.

“Every time we introduce each other, ‘This is my husband,’ it has such a powerful impact,” said Greg McNeilly, celebrating with husband Douglas Meeks at Midtown Brewing Co. in Lansing.

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Regina Calcagno, spokeswoman for Michigan for Marriage, said Sunday “recognizes a wonderful moment in history, when just over 300 couples – for just over eight hours – were able to be married.” She spoke by phone as she prepared for about 100 anniversary celebrants at Affirmations Community Center in the Oakland county community of Ferndale.

Despite the cakes and the champagne, Calcagno said it was a “bittersweet” event because of the fact that the same-sex marriage ban remains in effect in Michigan.

“Thousands of couples are being denied their equal rights,” she said.

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