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Michigan Gov. Relents, Agrees to Recognize 300 Same-Sex Marriages

Michigan Gov. Relents, Agrees to Recognize 300 Same-Sex Marriages

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced today that his administration will recognize  300 same-sex marriages that took place during a 24-hour window when they were legal in Michigan last year. 

But that doesn't change the Republican administration's plan to defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage at the U.S. Supreme Court later this year, reports BuzzFeed's legal editor Chris Geidner. The case out of Michigan is one of four marriage equality cases the nation's highest court will consider this spring, likely issuing a ruling on the legality of same-sex marriage nationwide by June. 

In a statement, Snyder announced that he will not appeal a federal judge's January ruling that Michigan must recognize the 300 marriages obtained by same-sex couples in Michigan's brief "equality window" last March, before an appeals court put a separate federal pro-equality ruling on hold.  

"The judge has determined that same-sex couples were legally married on that day, and we will follow the law and extend state marriage benefits to those couples," Snyder said in a statement.

That's a major shift from the governor's previous position, which involved refusing to grant those married same-sex couples the state benefits offered to other married couples, and going so far as to claim the marriages "never existed" in November 2014.

That prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to get involved, filing the federal suit that in January saw a pro-equality ruling, with which the governor today agreed to comply. 

RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Marriage Equality in Michigan

But while Snyder agreed to recognize those 300 same-sex marriages, his statement today also made clear that he and fellow Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette will fight to keep the state's marriage ban on the books.

"I appreciate that the larger question will be addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court this year," said Snyder in the same statement. "This is an issue that has been divisive across our country. Our nation’s highest court will decide this issue. I know there are strong feelings on both sides of this issue, and it’s vitally important for an expedient resolution that will allow people in Michigan, as well as other states, to move forward together on the other challenges we face."

Indeed, the governor's latest announcement is likely to further complicate the already complex state of marriage equality in Michigan.

After a federal judge struck down Michigan's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in March (resulting in the 24-hour equality window), the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals broke with every other federal appeals court to date and upheld the state's ban. That set up an all-but-certain showdown at the Supreme Court, since the Sixth Circuit's decision created what is known as a "circuit split," when multiple federal courts arrive at different conclusions on the same fundamental issue. 

In January the Supreme Court announced that it will hear four marriage cases — including Michigan's — before the end of this term. Although oral arguments have yet to be scheduled before the high court, its willingness to hear the consolidated cases this term means there will likely be a decision regarding nationwide marriage equality issued from the Supreme Court by the end of June.

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