Federal appeals court stays Michigan equal marriage ruling, casts hundreds of new unions into legal limbo

“We’re all feeling quite deflated and ready to figure this out,” Equality Michigan Executive Director Emily Dievendorf

Topics: equal marriage, Marriage equality, lgbtq rights, Gay Rights, Michigan, , ,

Federal appeals court stays Michigan equal marriage ruling, casts hundreds of new unions into legal limbo Same sex couples are married in a group by the Oakland County Clerk in Pontiac, Mich., Saturday, March 22, 2014. A federal judge has struck down Michigan's ban on gay marriage Friday the latest in a series of decisions overturning similar laws across the U.S. Some counties plan to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples Saturday, less than 24 hours after a judge overturned Michigan's ban on gay marriage. (Credit: AP)

A federal judge on Friday struck down Michigan’s ban on equal marriage, noting in his ruling that in its fervor to defend the discriminatory law, “state defendants lost sight of what this case is truly about: people.”

Less than 24 hours later, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, suspended that ruling until later this week, when it will decide on the possibility of a longer injunction in response to the state’s appeal.

By the time the stay was issued, hundreds of gay couples had already celebrated the ruling with long-awaited nuptials at clerks’ offices across the state. But with the equal marriage ruling halted, their unions are in legal limbo and emotions are running high.

“We’re all feeling quite deflated and ready to figure this out,” Equality Michigan Executive Director Emily Dievendorf told the New York Times. “I think that we tasted a little bit of hope this afternoon, and it was good.”

Events in Michigan are reminiscent to what happened in Utah follow its equal marriage ruling. A federal judge in December struck down the state’s ban on equal marriage, and 1,300 couples married before the Supreme Court stayed the ruling. Several gay couples in Utah have sued the state over the legality of their unions; couples in Michigan may also take legal action pending the court’s decision on the injunction.

As the Times reports, couples in Michigan are dismayed by the stay, but view it as a temporary setback in a fight for equality that they will win.



“I anticipate having quite a bit of difficulty getting my marriage recognized,” Alexi Chapin-Smith, who arrived with her partner at the Washtenaw County Clerk’s office at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, told the Times. But the legal limbo her marriage may now face “can’t be worse than [the legal situation] we’re already in,” she said.

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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