Mich. same-sex couples toast 1st wedding anniversary

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Bianca Racine and Carrie Miller sat arm in arm and raised their glasses for a toast to their one-year anniversary.

Although it was a private moment as the pair leaned into each other, they were not celebrating alone.

They were surrounded by nearly two dozen same-sex couples and a room full of supporters who gathered in Ferndale on Sunday.

They were celebrating March 22, 2014, the day when they and 321 other same-sex couples were married during a 10-hour window when county courts in Michigan could legally perform such marriages.

Champagne and wedding cake were served at the Affirmations community center. Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown made the toast; one year ago, she had called in staff on a Saturday to process paperwork and marry more than 150 couples.

"To love and equality," Brown told those in the room, who stood and cheered.

Brown was among county clerks in Washtenaw, Ingham and Muskegon counties who seized the moment on that day before a federal appeals court closed the window.

In total, those four Michigan counties issued 322 licenses and performed dozens of ceremonies before most clerks closed offices at 1 p.m., before the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay in the case.

While celebration was in the air on Sunday as couples embraced, children darted around tables, and old friends reunited, there also was an awareness that the fight for equality had not been entirely won just yet.

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments challenging Michigan's gay marriage ban on April 28 and rule in late June.

The hope, Deacon Roland Smith said, is that everyone will have the right to marry.

"We are just people who demand the same rights as everyone else," Smith said.

"We live, we play, we work, we play taxes the same as everybody else."

Diane and Dana Shaw of Rochester Hills brought their sons Jacob and Charlies, both 5, to the celebration.

Diane said that while it's been an extremely busy year with a lot of great memories, it is the little things — like a call from her mother wishing her a happy anniversary for the first time — that make everything worth it.

Frank Colasonti Jr. and James Ryder, the first same-sex couple married in Oakland County on March 22, joined the group Sunday to celebrate their one-year anniversary.

Their lives have changed dramatically in the last year.

In the past, the Birmingham couple received death threats at their homes over their sexuality. These last 12 months, they have become local celebrities, with strangers and others congratulating them on their nuptials.

Still, Ryder has decided to wear his wedding band on his right hand instead of his left as a way of reminding others that everyone is still not free to marry.

"Until everyone can get married, it's not over. We were lucky enough to be the 300 couples," he said.