By Emma Fidel
MASON, MICH.: Same-sex couples rushed to Michigan county clerk’s offices Saturday to get hitched a day after a judge overturned the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage, and several hundred managed to do so before an appeals court reinstituted the ban, at least temporarily.
The order by a federal appeals court in Cincinnati came after Glenna DeJong, 53, and Marsha Caspar, 51, of Lansing, were the first to arrive at the Ingham County Courthouse in the central Michigan city of Mason. DeJong and Caspar, who have been together for 27 years, received their license and were married by Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum.
“I figured in my lifetime it would happen,” Caspar said. “But now, when it happens now, it’s just overwhelming. I still can’t believe it. I don’t think it’s hit me yet.”
Similar nuptials followed one after another, at times en masse, in at least four of Michigan’s 83 counties. Those four — Oakland, Muskegon, Ingham and Washtenaw counties — issued more than 300 marriage licenses to same-sex couples Saturday.
DeJong said the threat of a stay was all the encouragement they needed.
“Come Monday, we might not be able to do it, so we knew we had a short window of time,” she said.
She was right. Later Saturday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals froze until at least Wednesday a decision by a lower court judge to overturn Michigan’s ban. The appeals court said the time-out will “allow a more reasoned consideration” of the state’s request to stop same-sex marriages.
The court’s order was posted just a few hours after it told the winning side to respond to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s request for a stay by noon Tuesday.
In his appeal, Schuette noted the U.S. Supreme Court in January suspended a similar decision that struck down Utah’s gay-marriage ban.
Voters approved the gay marriage ban in a landslide in 2004.
But in Friday’s historic decision, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said the ballot box is no defense to a law that tramples the rights of same-sex couples.
Schuette’s spokeswoman, Joy Yearout, said Saturday that a stay would preserve a state constitutional ban pending the appeal’s outcome. She declined to say whether the state would recognize the new marriages in that scenario.
“The courts will have to sort it out,” she said.
Yearout later said her office anticipates that the appeals court “will issue a permanent stay, just as courts have ruled in similar cases across the country.”