Feds recognize Mich. same-sex marriages despite legal stay

 

The Justice Department said Friday that it will recognize same-sex marriages that were performed in Michigan last weekend despite the couples now being in legal limbo.

A week ago, a district court judge ruled that the state’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions was unconstitutional. A day later, however, a federal appeals court imposed a legal stay on the decision to allow the state time to appeal.

“I have determined that the same-sex marriages performed last Saturday in Michigan will be recognized by the federal government,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “These families will be eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages.” 

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More than 300 marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couple before the ban was reinstated on Saturday, The Associated Press reported. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit filed the order on Saturday to restore the ban, at least temporarily.

Holder noted that Gov. Rick Snyder (R-Mich.) will not grant the newly married couples state rights and benefits because the legal proceedings are now pending.

In January, Holder announced a similar decision in which the federal government extended benefits to same-sex couples married in Utah despite a stay in proceedings there.

“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,” Holder said. 

The Supreme Court imposed a stay that month on the decision a judge made in December to overturn a ban on same-sex marriages in Utah.

While Utah officials said the state wouldn’t recognize the more than 1,300 couples who got married, Holder said the federal government would move based on the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act last year. 

“Last June’s decision by the Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor was a victory for equal protection under the law and a historic step toward equality for all American families,” Holder said Friday. “The Department of Justice continues to work with its federal partners to implement this decision across the government. And we will remain steadfast in our commitment to realizing our country’s founding ideals of equality, opportunity, and justice for all.”