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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
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Feds Recognize Marriages Stifled by Michigan Ban

(CN) - Though Michigan will not recognize gay marriages performed there legally last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday the federal government will recognize these unions.

The couples were married Saturday in the hours before the 6th Circuit granted an emergency stay of a Friday ruling that said Michigan violated federal law by excluding gay couples from marrying.

On Wednesday, a day after the 6th Circuit's stay was indefinitely extended, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder affirmed that the roughly 300 marriages performed in four Michigan counties Saturday were legal.

The Republican said the state nevertheless could not recognize the marriages in light of the appellate stay.

But the U.S. attorney general said Friday that "these families will be eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages."

Holder made a similar commitment earlier this year to 1,300 same-sex couples in Utah whose marriages the heavily Mormon state spurned.

He mentioned these Utah marriages, as well as Snyder's findings that the licenses were legally granted, in discussing the Michigan case.

"The governor of Michigan has made clear that the marriages that took place on Saturday were lawful and valid when entered into, although Michigan will not extend state rights and benefits tied to these marriages pending further legal proceedings," Holder said in a statement. "For purposes of federal law, as I announced in January with respect to similarly situated same-sex couples in Utah, these Michigan couples will not be asked to wait for further resolution in the courts before they may seek federal benefits to which they are entitled. "

As in Utah, the court striking down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage cited the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor, which took issue with a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

A lesbian couple had brought the challenge in Detroit because the Michigan law entitles their three adopted children to have a legal relationship with only one same-sex parent.

Though the couple has been together for more than a decade, Michigan law only allows couples to joint adopt if they are married.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman's landmark decision said the state has no basis to exclude same-sex couples from marriage and cannot use the marriage ban to deny a child of a same-sex couple a legal relationship with both parents. Friedman also rejected the state's claim that only heterosexual parents make the optimal parents.

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