Same-sex advocates ask federal judge to recognize 300 marriages

Oralandar Brand-Williams

Detroit — Advocates for gay marriage asked a federal judge Thursday to legally recognize the 300 marriages of same-sex couples in Michigan on March 22, the day after a historic ruling overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith heard arguments Thursday from lawyers on both sides of a lawsuit, Caspar v. Snyder, brought on behalf of eight same-sex couples who were married at Michigan clerk offices during the brief window of time gay marriage was legal in the state. Later that day a stay was issued at the request of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to stop any more gay marriages until the matter could heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals.

On March 21 U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman overturned the ban on gay marriage, acting on a lawsuit brought by April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, two Hazel Park nurses raising children as a couple. The plaintiffs sought to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and the ban on joint adoption for gay couples.

During Thursday’s hearing ACLU attorney Julian Mortenson argued that the state should recognize the marriages and urged the court not to wait until the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the DeBoer case.

Mortenson said the Caspar case is different than the DeBoer case.

“Our case is about the right to stay married and not about the right to get married,” said Mortenson.

“We’re asking the state to start recognizing the marriages tomorrow,” said Mortenson Thursday.

But the state’s attorney, Michael Murpy, urged Goldsmith to wait until the appellate court rules on the DeBoer case.

“This is a (marriage) recognition case,” said Murphy. “Their position is that the state of Michigan allowed them to get married. We didn’t allow it. It was allowed by a district court decision for a short period of time.”

Murphy said the couples got married knowing their marriages might not be valid in the future, if Friedman’s decision was overturned.

Goldsmith did not indicate when he would rule on the case.

Oral arguments were heard earlier this month by a three-judge panel at the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. A decision on the case, which was heard along with gay marriage cases from Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, is expected in the next two months.

Marsha Caspar, the lead plaintiff in Thursday’s case, and Glenna DeJong were the first same-sex couple in Michigan to be married March 22 in Ingham County. They said they have waited 27 years to be able to marry.

Caspar and DeJong attended Thursday’s hearing, which lasted nearly two hours, before Goldsmith.

“There’s nothing confusing about this,” said Caspar standing along side DeJong. “How long do we have to wait? It’s very upsetting.”


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