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ACLU argues gay marriages in Michigan should be legal

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit —— The marriages of 300 gay and lesbian couples should be legally recognized despite a recent federal appeals court ruling to keep Michigan’s same sex marriage ban in place, a rights group argued Friday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan made the argument in supplemental legal briefs filed this week in Caspar v. Snyder, which seeks recognition for the marriages.

“The Caspar plaintiffs are parties to marriages that were legally solemnized in Michigan at a time when Michigan law unequivocally sanctioned their union,” ACLU attorneys wrote in the brief. “Gov. Snyder himself has repeatedly conceded this point.”

Snyder has said while the 300 marriages are legal, the couples don’t qualify for state benefits.

“The Court of Appeals decision does not allow for state benefits of marriage for those same-sex couples in accordance with our state constitution. That decision only can be changed if today’s appeals court ruling is overturned,” Snyder said earlier.

Marsha Caspar, 52, and Glenna DeJong, 53, were the first same-sex couple to be married in Michigan March 22 after U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman negated the voter-approved state constitutional ban on gay marriage. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Friedman’s ruling.

ACLU attorneys said while it does not agree with the appeals court ruling, it “does not relieve the state of its duty to recognize the Caspar plaintiffs’ valid marriages.”

In its supplemental briefs filed last week, the state of Michigan said the marriages should be invalidated on the basis of the appeals court ruling. The court’s decision was appealed Monday by the lawyers for two Hazel Park women, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, who are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

Thirty-two states allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

In its briefs filed Nov. 14, the state argued “from a legal standpoint, because the marriages rested solely on the district court’s erroneous decision, which has now been reversed, it is as if the marriages never existed.”

In another brief filed this week, the ACLU notified the court that one of the two plaintiffs in the case, Kelly and Anne Callison, moved to Hawaii with their son.

“This move was prompted in significant part by the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the validity of their marriage,” read the brief filed Nov. 19. “Currently, their Michigan marriage is recognized by the public school district in Hawaii that now employs Anne, so Kelly is able to receive benefits through Anne’s employment.”

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

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