There was more wrangling Thursday over gay marriage in Michigan after Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to recognize about 300 marriages performed during the 24-hour period that same-sex marriage was allowed in Michigan
U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, along with U.S. Reps. Sander Levin, Gary Peters, Dan Kildee and John Dingell, asked Holder to clarify the federal status of the now married couples, as he did in January for similarly situated gay couples in Utah, the Detroit Free Press reports.
In the Utah case, Holder said the government would recognize for the purpose of federal benefits the more than 1,000 couples who were married during the 17 days between a lower court’s ruling legalizing gay marriage and the stay issued by the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s unclear when, or if, Holder will intervene.
On Wednesday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said the marriages are legal, but the state won’t recognize them until the Supreme Court has a chance to hear and rule on appeal of U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman’s historic ruling turning back a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage approved by voters in 2004.
Recognizing the marriages of couples who rushed to four county courthouses in Michigan to tie the knot after Friday’s ruling is “another step toward full equality,” the delegation said.
Democrats in the Michigan Legislature took a similar posture after Snyder said the marriages wouldn’t be recognized because of a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stay on the ruling.
Snyder’s decision puts on hold newlywed gay couples’ plans to adopt children – which was the basis of the lawsuit prompting the ruling filed by April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse of Hazel Park who have been together for a decade, but were prohibited from jointly adopting children because they didn’t have a legal marriage.
It also blocks legally married gay couples from applying for tax and other state benefits available to other married couples in Michigan.
In a conference call with reports, Kildee, who represents Michigan’s 5th District, said failure by government officials to recognize the messages is a civil rights issue that can’t be ignored.
“We have a much larger question here: the civil rights case we will face,” he said, recalling for reporters the scene of former Alabama Gov. George Wallace standing at the school doorway trying to stop black students from entering the University of Alabama in 1963.
“This is not some sort of esoteric discussion,” Kildee said. “It’s about real Michigan families who just want to do best for themselves and their children.”
Kildee said Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has called Friedman’s ruling declaring the voter-backed ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional “violation of the will of the people” should drop their appeal.
“They should put away the posturing and recognize the inherent rights of these individuals to love one another,” he said. “The question is do they support equality for all Michiganders.”
Also, East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett and Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum, whose county was one of four that where gay marriages were performed Sturday, are awaiting a response from the U.S. Department of Justice on whether it will recognize the same-sex marriages in Michigan for the purposes of granting federal benefits.
ACLU Michigan is also considering intervening on behalf of the gay couples after Snyder’s decision Wednesday, MLive reports. Jay Kaplan, the LGBT Project attorney for the civil rights group, said Snyder’s position could help the couples win federal benefits, but still treats them as “second-class citizens” denied state benefits.
"It's very disconcerting that in one breath, he's saying these marriages are legal, and yet he's saying the state will deny any benefits, protections or recognitions associated with the marriage," Kaplan said of Snyder. "How can you talk out of both sides of your mouth?"These people have legal marriages, and under the laws of our state, as well as the constitution, you have to treat them equally."