Republican Gov. Rick Snyder announced Wednesday afternoon that the state would not appeal a district court’s January decision ordering it recognize the nearly 300 same-sex marriages performed in Michigan last March.
The original district court ruling in Caspar v. Snyder was stayed for 21 days to allow time for the state to file an appeal, meaning the ruling would not go into effect for 21 days. Because the state has not chosen to file an appeal, the marriages will now be considered valid to receive state benefits after the stay terminates Thursday,
“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 Monday.
The governor had previously stated that though he believed the marriages were valid, he did not think they were eligible for state benefits. Following the January ruling in Caspar v. Snyder, his office did not respond to requests for comment.
In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Law Prof. Julian Mortenson, who worked as a cooperating attorney on the case on behalf of the plaintiffs, said the legal analysis of the decision is still developing. However, he said once the stay terminates the marriages should have the same legal meaning as a marriage between a man and woman in the state.
“The legal upshot, in all honesty, is extremely simple,” he said. ““There is no distinction between those Michigan marriages that are between same-sex couples and those in-state marriages that are between opposite-sex couples. They are all marriages, full stop, for the purpose of every distinction as to which that question is relevant under Michigan law.”
The 300 marriages were performed during a brief window between a separate district court decision — which ruled the state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional — and a stay on that decision. The marriages faced legal uncertainty while a larger legal battle over the legality of same-sex marriage nationwide ensued.
Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage is currently before the U.S Supreme Court, with oral arguments expected to occur in April, after the Sixth Circuit ruled late last year that the ban was constitutional, overturning the district court’s decision.
Snyder said he looked forward to that ruling to determine the overall legality of same-sex marriage.
“This is an issue that has been divisive across our country,” he said, “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.”
Proponents of same-sex marriage in the state and beyond applauded the decision to let the marriages stand Monday afternoon.
Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum, who was one of several county clerks to issue licenses to same-sex couples in March, said in a statement that the decision was the right choice for the state.
Because the district court decision occurred over the weekend, not all clerks opened their offices.
“Love has won today for the 300 same-sex marriages that took place last spring, affording these couples the rights they deserve, like all other families under the law,” Byrum said. “This is a critical step forward in our fight to secure the freedom to marry for all Michiganders.”
Brad O’Connor, president of the Jim Toy Community Center, which serves as a resource for the LGBTQ community in Washtenaw County, commended Snyder on saving taxpayer money through not pursuing the case further, though he noted the state was still pursuing an appeal of the case on the same-sex marriage ban.
“I’m relieved that the governor decided to not appeal this,” he said. “I commend him for taking the taxpayers into consideration — it’s a good step.”
This is a developing story. Stay with michigandaily.com for updates.
This story has been updated to include additional interviews.