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Marriage Equality

Federal Judge Rules Michigan Must Recognize Married Same-Sex Couples

Federal Judge Rules Michigan Must Recognize Married Same-Sex Couples

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A judge ruled that Michigan's decision not to recognize the marriages of 300 same-sex couples 'unquestionably wounds them deeply.'

A federal judge in Michigan ruled Thursday morning that the state must recognize the legal marriages of 300 same-sex couples who wed in 2014 during a short window of time, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Last year a federal court overturned Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage, but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the decision the next day. In that one day, though, at least 300 couples were married, but the state government said it would not recognize those unions. The American Civil Liberties Union's Michigan affiliate, representing eight of those couples, challenged the lack of state recognition.

Judge Mark Goldsmith ruled that the state violated the couples' due process and equal protection rights by refusing to recognize their marriages.

"Michigan's nonrecognition policy divests Plaintiffs of an essential human dimension in their lives -- the legally recognized bond of committed intimacy in a marriage that was solemnized and recognized as valid by the challenging state -- the loss of which unquestionably wounds them deeply," Goldsmith wrote.

Glenna DeJong, who married longtime partner Marsha Caspar during that window, said she and her wife, and the other couples, were caught in a paradox.

"It's stressful having to work so hard for something that seems so simple. Other married couples don't have to jump through these hoops and become activists just to be treated equally," she said in a press release issued by the ACLU of Michigan. "We don't want special rights, just the same rights afforded to other married couples."

The ACLU's case is similar to the legal battle over marriage equality in Utah, where couples wed after the state's ban was struck down but before a stay was issued to prevent same-sex couples from moving forward with marriages.

"All these couples have ever asked is that they be able to love and protect their families without being discriminated against," Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan LGBT Project, said in the press release. "With this decision, they can finally begin to move away from uncertainty and unfairness and toward the fulfillment of their shared dreams."

The Sixth Circuit ultimately overturned the decision that struck down Michigan's marriage ban, so no other same-sex couples can currently marry in the state. The Sixth Circuit decision is on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has not yet said if it will hear the case.

As for today's decision on recognition, Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette issued a statement saying his staff is reviewing it, "but as I have said repeatedly, the sooner the United States Supreme Court makes a decision on this issue the better it will be for Michigan and America."

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