MASON, Mich. - Same-sex couples rushed to Michigan county clerks' offices yesterday to get hitched a day after a judge overturned the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage, and several hundred managed to do so before an appeals court reinstituted the ban, at least temporarily.
MASON, Mich. — Same-sex couples rushed to Michigan county clerks’ offices yesterday to get hitched a day after a judge overturned the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage, and several hundred managed to do so before an appeals court reinstituted the ban, at least temporarily.
The order by a federal appeals court in Cincinnati came after Glenna DeJong, 53, and Marsha Caspar, 51, of Lansing, were the first to arrive at the Ingham County Courthouse in the central Michigan city of Mason. DeJong and Caspar, who have been together for 27 years, received their license and were married by Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum.
“I figured in my lifetime it would happen,” Caspar said. “But now, when it happens now, it’s just overwhelming. I still can’t believe it. I don’t think it’s hit me yet.”
Similar nuptials followed in at least four of Michigan’s 83 counties. Those four — Oakland, Muskegon, Ingham and Washtenaw counties — issued more than 300 marriage licenses to same-sex couples yesterday.
Later yesterday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals froze, at least until Wednesday, a decision by a lower-court judge to overturn Michigan’s ban. The appeals court said the timeout will “allow a more reasoned consideration” of the state’s effort to overturn the decision.
The court’s order was posted just a few hours after it told the winning side to respond to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s request for a stay by noon on Tuesday.
In his appeal, Schuette noted that the U.S. Supreme Court in January suspended a similar decision striking down Utah’s gay-marriage ban.
Michigan voters approved the gay-marriage ban in a landslide in 2004. But on Friday, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said the ballot box is no defense for a law that tramples the rights of same-sex couples.
Schuette’s spokeswoman, Joy Yearout, said yesterday that a stay would preserve the state ban pending the appeal’s outcome. She couldn’t say whether the state would recognize the new marriages in that scenario.
The District of Columbia and 17 states issue licenses for same-sex marriage. Since December, bans on gay marriage also have been overturned in Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Virginia, but appeals have put those cases on hold.
Elizabeth Patten, 52, and her partner of 28 years, Jonnie Terry, 50, of Ann Arbor, were the first couple married in Washtenaw County, where couples began to line up outside the clerk’s office at 5:30 a.m. yesterday and 74 licenses were issued.
“It was really surreal. I don’t know if this is the wedding we imagined,” Patten said after the impromptu ceremony performed in the basement of the county building. “But we are so pleased and honored to be a part of this process and have this opportunity today.”
Not among those getting married yesterday were the two who started it all.
April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, two Detroit-area nurses who are raising three children with special needs, filed a lawsuit in 2012 because they’re barred from adopting each other’s children in Michigan.
Their lawsuit sparked the two-week trial that culminated in Friday’s decision.
DeBoer and Rowse have said they would wait to wed, even though the appeals process could take years.
“We will be getting married — when we know that our marriage is forever binding,” DeBoer said.