Following nearly three years of legal proceedings, the U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday afternoon that they will take up a case challenging the legality of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The Court also announced it will review several other similar cases from Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio. The cases involve both the ability of states to dictate the legality of the marriages themselves and also whether states with bans are obligated to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states without them.

In an interview Friday afternoon, Carole Stanyar, one of several attorneys who represented the plaintiffs in the Michigan case, DeBoer v. Snyder, said the announcement was the culmination of several years of work.

“We’re very happy the court has decided to grant writ certiorari in our case,” Stanyar said. “It’s been a long haul, we’ve been at this since about 2011. And we can’t predict, of course, what the court will do but this is certainly a step in the right direction.”

SCOTUS Blog, a popular online publication that covers the Supreme Court, tweeted Friday that oral arguments in the cases will be heard beginning the week of April 27, likely on April 29 specifically.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily Friday afternoon, Brad O’ Conner, president of the Jim Toy Center, applauded the decision. The Jim Toy Center is a Washtenaw County organization that aims to serve as a resource for the LGBTQ community.

“It’s just great news,” O’Conner said. “It’s an emotional day, it’s a day we’ve been fighting for and waiting for a long time, some of us for most of our lives. And…to have our case heard at the Supreme Court, it’s just emotional. There’s no words for it.”

“I’ve seen Facebook explode,” he added. “We’re getting the word out to our members of the community that this is happening, and that Michigan is going to be on the forefront, Michigan’s case is going to be heard at the Supreme Court. And this family, the DeBoer-Rowe family, they’re going to make history with this case.”

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has advocated for the Supreme Court to settle the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans, wrote that he is pleased the voters of Michigan will finally have the issue decided.

“The case involves people of good will, sincerely motivated, on both sides,” Schuette wrote. “All of Michigan’s voters, as well as the citizens of our nation, will be served by the court’s decision to decide this case and resolve such an important issue.”

Michigan’s ban was approved by voters as an amendment to the state constitution in 2004 by a 58 percent majority. In 2012, Hazel Park residents April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse challenged the ban in federal district court after they were denied access to adoption as a same-sex couple. Initially, the case only concerned adoption laws, but later shifted to a challenge of the ban on same-sex marriage as a whole.

Shortly after a district court found in favor of DeBoer and Rowse last March, ruling that the state’s ban was unconstitutional, Schuette appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. He also requested and was granted a stay on the decision a day after it was issued, which meant no further same-sex marriages could occur in Michigan pending the court’s decision, as has occurred in other states.

The stay also left about 300 couples who had married in the day-long interim between the district court’s decision and the stay in a state of unresolved legal uncertainty. A U.S. District court ruled Thursday that the state was obligated to recognize the marriages. The decision will not go into effect for 21 days, giving the state time to file an appeal. They have not yet indicated whether they will do so.

In November, the Sixth Circuit Court reversed the district court’s ruling, finding Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage, as well as several similar measures in other states covered by the Sixth Circuit, constitutional. DeBoer and Rowse then brought the issue to the Supreme Court docket by challenging the Sixth Court’s decision, filing a petition later that month.

Both Schuette, representing the state, and the plaintiffs in the case have pushed for a Supreme Court review of the situation, along with many marriage equality groups in the state and nationwide.

Litigants in similar cases spanning many other states also petitioned the Supreme Court for appeals. Michigan’s case is considered unique because it had a full trial hearing in the district court, allowing evidence to be entered into the record.

The case is also considered distinct because it featured a split decision between the district and circuit court, reversing a nationwide trend of circuit courts striking down the bans. The Sixth Circuit’s decision to reverse the ban was the first for a circuit court, where judges ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in 35 other states.

In an interview Friday afternoon, Public Policy junior Nick Rinehart, chair of Central Student Government’s LGBT*Q Commission, said he hadn’t yet seen a big reaction on campus from the announcement, but was personally very excited and optimistic about the forthcoming case.

However, he added that for many students, other issues, namely a lack of discrimination protections in many states in regards to housing and jobs for LGBTQ individuals, may present more pressing concerns than marriage legalization.

“At least for me, and I’m sure for a lot of other people, it’s even more of an important issue than marriage is,” Reinhart said. “Because while it would be great to be able to get married, the fact that going into the job market I’m not really protected under the law is a much more significant, much more tangible issue that I’m facing. And while I’d love to get married ten years down the road, this is something that’s affecting me now, and will affect me more in the future than getting married probably ever will.”

Daily News Editor Shoham Geva contributed reporting.
This story has been updated with additional interviews

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