Government, Human Resources, and Law

Appeals court grants hold on gay marriage

March 24, 2014
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Roane becomes an unexpected activist
Ric Roane.

This past weekend can easily be described as a roller coaster for Michigan’s gay couples seeking to marry.

Constitutionality

Following Federal District Court Judge Bernard A. Friedman’s ruling that Michigan’s gay-marriage ban is unconstitutional, which came late Friday afternoon, couples lined up in the clerk’s offices of four counties that were offering marriage licenses on Saturday morning, and by mid afternoon, 300 gay couples had exchanged vows in the state.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an emergency stay Saturday afternoon, at the request of Attorney General Bill Schuette.

"Michigan voters enshrined that decision in our state Constitution, and their will should stand and be respected," Schuette said. 

The stay puts all of those marriages on hold, as well as prevents county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to any additional gay couples.

“The clear message for today is that there is no change as a result of the stay,” explained Ric Roane, Warner Norcross & Judd family law attorney and past chair of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers LGBT/Alternative Family committee.

“The emergency stay means that there is no immediate results to businesses, to the availability of benefits and to the ability for gays and lesbians to marry, pending a further decision.”

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has indicated that on Wednesday it will make a final decision on whether or not to continue the stay.

Fast track

The expectation is that the stay will continue, and LGBT couples will remain in limbo through the appeals process. However, that process could be fast tracked, resolving the issue more quickly for the state’s LGBT families.

Roane said that Michigan could follow in the steps of Utah.

“In that case, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals put the appeal on a fast track and that case is going to arguments in April and that was from a decision in December . . . with a decision expected some time later this year.”

Federal recognition

There is a silver lining for Michigan’s gay couples that did marry in the short period on Saturday. The federal government may recognize their marriages even though the state of Michigan will not.

“Attorney General Eric Holder said even though Utah isn’t going to recognize those marriages, the federal government will recognize those marriages,” Roane said. “So, the Utah married couples have dual treatment, their marriages are recognized for federal, but not for state purposes.

“I think that’s likely to happen in Michigan. The 300 couples that got married on Saturday will likely not have their marriages recognized by the state of Michigan, but Eric Holder may treat Michigan the same as the Utah marriages.”

The Michigan case must now work its way through the appellate court and then likely the U.S. Supreme Court.

The couple

As for April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, despite their victory in federal court on Friday, the couple and their children remain in legal limbo.

“April Deboer and Jayne Rowse, because of the stay, cannot adopt their children,” Roane said. “That is what they want, they want to co-adopt their children, a second-parent adoption. . . . Because of the stay, they cannot do anything, yet.”

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