DETROIT — An appeals court put an indefinite halt Tuesday on same-sex marriages in Michigan though lawyers for the couple who challenged the state’s gay-marriage ban had asked the judges to allow them while the state appeals the ruling.
The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the state’s request 2-1 to suspend Friday’s ruling from U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, who had declared Michigan’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional. On Saturday, the appeals court had granted an emergency stay.
"The Supreme Court has already determined that a stay pending appeal is warranted when a district court strikes down a state constitutional amendment defining marriage," Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette wrote Tuesday in asking for the extension. The high court ordered a halt to same-sex marriages in Utah in January while that state appeals a December federal court ruling.
Also Tuesday, lawyers for plaintiffs April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse had asked the court to lift its emergency stay while the state appealed.
In 2004, Michigan voters amended the state constitution to defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The state has claimed that children thrive best when mothers and fathers raise them and has argued that’s why it wants to preserve the traditional definition of marriage.
After Friedman’s ruling Friday, clerks in Ingham, Muskegon, Oakland and Washtenaw counties opened their offices Saturday and issued 321 marriages licenses to same-sex couples; at least 299 weddings were performed before the appeals court issued its first stay. The stay leaves those couples in a sort of limbo, waiting to see if their vows are legally recognized.
Rowse and DeBoer didn’t get married Saturday. They said they want to wait to see if Friedman’s decision is upheld after all appeals.
The American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday it is preparing to launch its own set of legal challenges if Michigan doesn’t recognize the validity of the weddings of same-sex couples performed Saturday.
The challenges could come if Michigan refuses to grant benefits to a spouse in a same-sex marriage, blocks adoptions from those couples or does not allow a couple to file state income tax forms jointly, said Jay Kaplan, a lawyer for the ACLU of Michigan.
“I truly don’t understand the rabid resistance from some people,” said Glenna DeJong, who with Marsha Caspar was the first same-sex couple to get married Saturday in Michigan. “I do know we’ll be on the right side of history.”
DeBoer and Rowse’s lawyers had argued that denying the stay best meets the public interest.
"There are times when maintaining the status quo makes sense," their filing said. "There are also times when maintaining the status quo is merely a kinder label for perpetuating discrimination that should no longer be tolerated."
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia issue licenses for same-sex marriage. Since December, bans on gay marriage have been overturned in Oklahoma Texas, Utah and Virginia, but appeals have put those cases on hold.
Contributing: The Associated Press