Michigan’s Marriage Waiting Game: LGBTQ Rights in Limbo

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Heavy excitement quickly followed the Federal Judge striking down Michigan’s gay marriage ban, but not long after that, joy was polluted with confusion. The decision ruled that the prohibition of same-sex marriage was a violation of the U.S. Constitution, and the state was told that it would no longer be allowed to enforce the ban.

Today’s decision … affirms the enduring principles that regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail,” said U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, according to CNN. Texas, Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Utah have seen rulings of a similar nature. Same-sex couples across Michigan reacted as you might imagine — with celebrations, and in many cases, with marriage. The chapel rush didn’t last long though, as the ruling issued by Friedman was frozen, the appeals court issuing a temporary stay. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the marriage ban up through Wednesday so as “to allow a more reasoned consideration of the motion.”

For those who managed to tie the knot prior to this change, it leaves their marital status in a confused limbo. “We really don’t know,” said Jennifer Chapin-Smith, to USA Today, explaining that she and her new wife Alexi Chapin-Smith were excited to announce their marriage, but are now uncertain what it means. “Everybody at first said, ‘Congratulations.’ Then they said, ‘What’s going on?’ I said, ‘I really don’t know,’” she explained. She isn’t alone, as over 100 couples join her in the predicament.

So far, the state is not saying one way or the other as to its recognition of the matrimonial ties. Attorney General Bill Schuette had asked for the stay, and so far its looks as though the issue will remain unclear until at least Wednesday when it will be decided whether or not the stay is permanent while the appeal is dealt with.

According to USA Today, legal experts have said that the legal purgatory this places couples in is unfair and “creates even more uncertainty for those families who were married as to whether or not they have any rights or not,” according to Salt Lake City attorney Laura Milliken Gray. Gray worked as legal representation to same-sex couples in Utah who saw similar indecision as to their status — over 1,000 in the state dealt with a comparable situation. At that time, the U.S. Supreme Court had stepped in to issue a stay after 17 days and prevented further same-sex marriages.

One couple, partners for 25 years, spoke with USA Today, explaining that they had an even more difficult situation. They had celebrated their wedding with 70 people on Saturday in Ypsilanti, but Beth Bashert explained they had not gotten the marriage form back into the clerk’s office yet. “We’re going to submit it on Monday. But I just don’t know what our status is. Literally, I don’t know. It was so powerful and so amazing to be married. I’m trying not to worry about it. I can’t control it. I just want to continue to feel good,” she said.

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