ACLU Asks Judge to Order Michigan to Immediately Recognize the Marriages of the 300 Same-Sex Couples Who Wed in March

August 21, 2014

DETROIT – A federal judge in Detroit heard arguments today in the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan lawsuit challenging Michigan’s refusal to recognize the legal marriages of 300 same-sex couples who were wed in March after a federal judge struck down the state’s ban on marriage equality and before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals put the decision on hold.

“Never before has our state arbitrarily stripped lawfully married couples of their marriage recognition and it shouldn’t be allowed to do so now to same-sex couples. At the heart of this case are loving families who want to protect and care for one another,” said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project. “Allowing the state to treat these couples like second-class citizens adds to the confusion and instability these loving families have already endured.”

The lawsuit, filed in April on behalf of eight same-sex couples who were legally married during this window, argues that the state is violating the couples’ due process and equal protection rights by refusing to recognize the marriages. At the time these couples got married, the marriage ban in Michigan had been struck down in the DeBoer ruling and it was legal for them to wed.

The ACLU’s lawsuit argues that the state cannot “undo” these legal marriages after they have taken place. The ACLU is therefore seeking a preliminary injunction asking the court to require the state to immediately recognize the marriages. Although the DeBoer case is pending on appeal in the Sixth Circuit, the ACLU lawsuit seeks permanent recognition of the 300 marriages no matter what happens on appeal in DeBoer.

“It’s stressful having to work so hard for something that seems so simple. Other married couples don’t have to jump through these hoops and become activists just to be treated equally,” said Glenna DeJong, a plaintiff in the case along with her wife Marsha Caspar, of Ingham County, who have been together for 27 years and were the first same-sex couple to get married in Michigan. “We don’t want special rights, just the same rights afforded to other married couples.”

In a virtually identical situation to Michigan, the State of Utah had refused to recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples who were married after Utah’s ban on marriage equality was struck down as unconstitutional and before that decision was stayed pending appeal. In May, a federal district court in Utah ordered the state to recognize those marriages in another ACLU case, holding that Utah’s invalidation of those marriages was unconstitutional. The Utah court emphasized that the legal marriages of same-sex couples in that state had to be recognized regardless of what ultimately happened to the Utah marriage equality ruling on appeal.

The couples are represented by ACLU attorneys Jay Kaplan, Michael J. Steinberg, Dan Korobkin, Brooke Tucker, Kary Moss, and John Knight and ACLU cooperating attorneys Julian Mortenson and Andrew Nickelhoff.

Key News & Documents

Read more and view pictures of the families involved in this case

ACLU of Michigan Issues: LGBT Rights