Scores of elated gay and lesbian couples in Michigan celebrated at county clerks' offices and churches Saturday morning as officials signed off on their marriages, hours after a federal judge invalidated the state’s ban on gay marriage.
In Ingham County, clerk Barb Byrum had said late Friday in the wake of the decision that she would start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday. But overnight, she posted on Twitter that she couldn’t sleep. Then, she said she would open her office 8 a.m. Saturday, apparently skipping out on a 10K run to help people who had been “waiting a long time to marry.”
By 8:15 a.m., Marsha Caspar and Glenna DeJong, who told reporters they had been waiting for this moment for 27 years, were married.
More than 25 marriage licenses had been issued within three hours, Byrum said on Twitter.
The marriages were allowed to take place because unlike most recent decisions striking down gay-marriage bans, U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman did not stay his decision pending an appeal. Michigan Atty. Gen. Bill Schuette filed an emergency request to delay the ruling from going into effect, but the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals had not responded to the motion by early Saturday.
The marriages licensed Saturday might be open to question if a stay is eventually put into place, said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia.
“The couples will benefit personally because they’ll be married in terms of the ceremony, but the legal effects of the marriage is unclear,” Tobias told the Los Angeles Times on Saturday.
In Utah, more than 1,000 couples were married during a similar period of legal limbo this winter. The state has not recognized their marriages, pending an appeal of the case. But the U.S. Department of Justice has told the federal government to view those marriages as valid.
Tobias said he would be surprised to see the federal appeals judges take past Monday to decide on the attorney general’s motion.
In Oakland County, the first marriage license to a same-sex couple was issued shortly after 9 a.m, County Clerk Lisa Brown said. Frank Colasonti Jr. and James Ryder, shedding tears after it became official, were the first couple to marry there, according to media reports.
Clerks in Washtenaw and Muskegon counties also were open for a few hours Saturday to issue marriage licenses to couples who filled out a form and brought the proper identification.
The decision striking down the state’s decade-old, voter-approved ban on gay marriage came Friday, following a two-week trial last fall. At trial, the state argued that children of gay couples don’t turn out as well as the children of opposite-sex couples. The judge soundly dismissed those arguments in his ruling and said that the ban violated the U.S. Constitution’s promise of equal protection for all individuals.
Tobias, the law professor, said the judge’s decision to discount testimony offered by the state should help gay couples seeking to invalidate same-sex marriage bans elsewhere in the country.
A pair of female nurses from outside of Detroit challenged the ban because they had wanted to jointly adopt children but that was only available to married couples.
"We're so happy and proud Michigan is now on the right side of history and that we were able to stand up and say this wasn't fair," one of the plaintiffs, April DeBoer, told the media Friday night. The couple said Friday that they would not marry until the appeals process is finished.
Another happily married couple in Mason! Love is love! pic.twitter.com/8uaTOvfnF4— BarbByrum (@BarbByrum) March 22, 2014