Supreme Court decision clears the way for same-sex marriage in Michigan

By Rachel Premack, Daily News Editor
Published October 6, 2014

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 24 states after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from five states concerning same-sex marriage Monday.

The high court’s decision effectively legalizes same-sex marriage in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin by upholding the decisions of lower courts, all of which ruled in favor of same-sex groups. In Michigan, however, the decision remains in the hands of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On March 21, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman struck down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and a prohibition on the adoption of children by same-sex couples. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) followed Friedman’s ruling by requesting the decision be stayed, which was granted by the Sixth Circuit on March 22. Before the stay, more than 300 same-sex couples were issued marriage licenses by four of Michigan’s 83 county clerks who stayed open on a Saturday to process those applications.

The Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a request in May for the state to recognize the 300-plus couples married in March. The ACLU was also co-counsel in five of the seven petitions that the Supreme Court denied today.

Jay Kaplan, an attorney with ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project, said the Supreme Court’s decision to deny the appeals shows that it approves of the decisions by lower courts, which have been overwhelmingly in favor of same-sex marriage.

The Sixth Circuit’s decision to uphold or strike the lower courts’ decision would lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, Kaplan said.

“Today’s decision only sheds a window more on states like Michigan that don’t allow for this fundamental right,” Kaplan said.

Schuette, who is up for re-election in November, issued a statement regarding the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal.

“Michigan joins Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky in awaiting a decision by the Sixth Circuit in our pending cases, which we expect will be resolved soon,” said Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout.

When Schuette appealed the district court ruling in March, he stated that a 2004 voter-approved prohibition of same-sex marriage should be upheld.

“In 2004 the citizens of Michigan recognized that diversity in parenting is best for kids and families because moms and dads are not interchangeable,” Schuette said in a statement. “Michigan voters enshrined that decision in our State constitution, and their will should stand and be respected.”

Mark Totten, Schuette’s Democratic challenger in the upcoming election, said in a statement the attorney general’s argument is morally flawed, and criticized his usage of taxpayer money for expert witnesses in the trial.

“There’s a word for an Attorney General wasting taxpayer funds pursuing personal ideological crusades instead of protecting Michigan families: extreme,” Totten said.

Correction appended: A previous version of this article misstated the number of states in which same-sex marriage is now legal. The number is 24, plus the District of Columbia.