Snyder soon to decide appeal on 323 gay marriages

Chad Livengood and Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder said Tuesday he will decide within two days whether to appeal a federal judge's ruling that 323 same-sex marriages performed last March were valid.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith ruled Jan. 15 the state must recognize marriages of gay and lesbian performed March 22 after another federal judge's ruling the previous day striking down Michigan's 2004 ban on same-sex marriage.

"I think we'll be announcing that in the next day or two," Snyder told reporters Tuesday after speaking a conference of association executives in Lansing.

Goldsmith imposed a 21-day stay on his ruling, meaning the governor has until the end of the day Thursday to decide whether to appeal, Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said.

Clerks in Ingham, Muskegon, Oakland and Washtenaw counties performed the Saturday morning marriage ceremonies March 22, one day after U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said the state ban on same-sex marriage and adoption is unconstitutional.

Friedman's ruling involved a lawsuit Hazel Park residents April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse brought against the state. The lesbian couple had sought to adopt one another's special needs children and to marry.

Because Snyder is the named defendant in the DeBoer lawsuit, the decision on whether to appeal Goldsmith's ruling rests with him.

Attorney General Bill Schuette's office, which vigorously defended the voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, has referred all questions about the validity of the March 2014 marriages to Snyder's office.

After Goldsmith handed down his ruling on Jan. 15, the governor initially hinted he may enforce marriages at the direction of the judge.

"My view is I'm going to follow what the law is, and if a federal judge has made a judgment, until that's otherwise appealed, changed or modified, we'll respect what a federal judge is saying," Snyder told reporters at the time.

Wurfel later said Goldsmith's ruling was being reviewed by the governor's attorneys.

University of Detroit Mercy law professor Lawrence Dubin said Snyder has legal and political considerations to navigate in deciding whether to appeal the judge's ruling.

"As a legal issue, perhaps the State of Michigan could ask for a stay of the decision until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the constitutional issues of whether a state ban against same sex marriage is constitutional," Dubin said.

"As a political issue, the likelihood of the U.S. Supreme Court holding such a ban unconstitutional seems more probable than not. Therefore, now would be a good time to walk away from this issue."

Birmingham resident Frank Colasonti Jr. and his husband, James B. Ryder, are among the couples hoping the state of Michigan will decide not to appeal Goldsmith's ruling.

"I would be very angry and disappointed about remaining in limbo as a married couple," Colasonti said Tuesday.

The ACLU brought the federal lawsuit on behalf of the couples who exchanged vows last March.

"We hope that the state will decide to adhere to Judge Goldsmith's ruling and provide long overdue recognition to the 300 plus legal marriages that occurred on March 22, 2014," ACLU attorney Jay Kaplan said Tuesday.

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