ACLU of Michigan Asks Court to Order State to Recognize Marriages of 300 Same-Sex Couples Who Married in Michigan

May 29, 2014

DETROIT- The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a motion for preliminary injunction today, asking the federal district court to require the State of Michigan to recognize the marriages of hundreds of same-sex couples who were married in Michigan on March 22, 2014.

“At the heart of this case is the fundamental right of lawfully married couples to enjoy the benefits of marriage,” said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project. “The state cannot strip a married couple of recognition after it issues a valid marriage license.”

On March 21, 2014 U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman struck down Michigan’s ban on the right of same-sex couples to marry as violating the United States Constitution in the case of DeBoer v. Snyder. Approximately 300 couples were legally married before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals put the decision on hold.

A few days later, Governor Rick Snyder announced that, while the 300 marriages were legal, the state would not recognize them for the purposes of providing state benefits that are afforded to married couples. His decision was followed by an announcement by the federal government that it would recognize the marriages for federal purposes.

On April 14, the ACLU of Michigan filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of eight same-sex couples, arguing that the state had violated their due process and equal protection rights by refusing to recognize their lawful marriages.

In the motion and brief filed today in the case, Caspar v. Snyder, the ACLU argues that no matter what happens on appeal in the DeBoer case, Michigan cannot retroactively take away the benefits of marriage from the same-sex couples who were legally married on March 22.

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.

However, a federal district court last week in Utah ordered the state to recognize those marriages in another ACLU case, holding that Utah’s invalidation of those marriages was unconstitutional.

No date for argument on the ACLU of Michigan’s motion has been scheduled yet. The State of Michigan has until June 5 to file its initial answer to the lawsuit.

In addition to Kaplan, the same-sex couples are being represented by ACLU Cooperating Attorneys Julian Mortenson and Andrew Nickelhoff and ACLU attorneys Daniel Korobkin, Brooke Tucker, Michael J. Steinberg, John Knight, and Kary Moss.

Key News & Documents

Read the motion for a preliminary injunction filed today in Caspar

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

ACLU of Michigan Issues: LGBT Rights