Same-sex marriages in Michigan will not be recognized during stay, students voice frustrations


No same-sex couples were married in Isabella County on Saturday, while more than 300 were wedded statewide during a brief period in which it was legal.

A voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage was overturned March 21in U.S. district court, in a landmark ruling that found it unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause. An appeals court put a temporary stay on the ruling about 24 hours later, haulting same-sex marriages in Michigan.

Isabella County Chief Deputy Clerk Shelly Nelson said the county clerk's office did not receive any marriage license requests from same-sex couples in large part because the office was closed on Saturday.

The clerk’s office did receive numerous phone calls this week about the status of same-sex license requests in the county, she said.

"We're basically saying that the state hasn't recognized any changes in the law yet," Nelson said, "but if they do, then we'll be as helpful as we can."

For same-sex couples married on Saturday, the status of their marriages remains unclear. Gov. Rick Snyder has sidestepped the question of whether the state will recognize those marriages.

In a statement, the governor said the same-sex marriages performed last weekend will not be recognized, at least until the stay has been removed, closing the door to certain benefits granted to Michigan married couples.

The marriages were performed Saturday before a federal appeals court suspended the decision that overturned the state's ban on gay marriage.

"The couples with certificates of marriage from Michigan courthouses last Saturday were legally married and the marriage was valid when entered into," the statement said. "Because the stay brings Michigan law on this issue back into effect, the rights tied to these marriages are suspended until the stay is lifted or Judge Friedman's decision is upheld on appeal."

Kai Niezgoda, president of CMU's transgender student group, Transcend, is disappointed, but not surprised by the lack of progress of the ban, given how highly politicized the issue has become.

"Just based on Michigan's current conservative political climate, I wasn't actually expecting it to pass in the first place,” Niezgoda said. "While it doesn't exactly shock me that the stay has been put in place and that marriage equality isn't actually going to come to Michigan for an indefinite amount of time now, it is rather disappointing to see that."

Niezgoda said he saw many happy couples get married on Saturday. He compared the issue with the women's suffrage movement, and believes action on the federal level will need to take place in order for marriage equality to be a reality in all state.

"I don't think that there should be more question(s)," said Grand Rapids senior Amanda Mann. "People are just people, from the highest celebrity to whoever Joe Schmo on the street. Just leave people alone and let them have their rights."

Khila Pokharel, a CMU graduate student from Nepal, believes same-sex marriage is a personal decision that should not be impacted by state law.

"If it's okay with their personal life, nobody needs to worry about it," he said. "As long as it doesn't hurt anybody, it's their concern and if they choose to do it, it's up to them. It's a personal choice"