Same-sex marriage in Michigan
|Legal status of
*Not yet in effect
Michigan has banned recognition of same-sex unions in any form since a 2004 popular vote added an amendment to the state constitution. Previously, a statute enacted in 1996 banned both the licensing of same-sex marriages and the recognition of same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions.
On March 21, 2014, a decision of the U.S. District Court for Michigan's Eastern District ruled the state's denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples unconstitutional. More than 300 same-sex couples married in Michigan the next day before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed enforcement of the district court decision until March 26, a stay it extended indefinitely on March 25.
In June 1996, the Michigan House of Representatives voted 88-14 to ban same-sex marriage in the state, while the Michigan State Senate voted 31-2 in favor of the ban. Also in June, the Michigan House also approved, in a 74-28 vote, a bill banning recognition of out of state-same-sex marriages. The Michigan Senate also approved this bill. Governor John Engler signed both bills into law.
In 2004, voters approved a constitutional amendment, Michigan Proposal 04-2, that banned same-sex marriage and civil unions in the state. It passed with 58.6% of the vote. The Michigan Supreme Court later ruled that public employers in Michigan could not grant domestic partnership benefits given the restrictions imposed by the amendment.
DeBoer v. Snyder
On January 23, 2012, a lesbian couple filed a lawsuit in federal district court, challenging the state's ban on adoption by same-sex couples seeking to jointly adopt their children.
In August 2012, Judge Bernard A. Friedman invited the couple to amend their suit to challenge the state's ban on same-sex marriage, "the underlying issue". They did so on September 7. On March 7, 2013, after hearing arguments in the case, DeBoer v. Snyder, Friedman announced that he would delay ruling pending the outcome of two same-sex marriage cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry. On July 1, citing the recent Supreme Court decision in Windsor, he denied the state officials' motion to dismiss the suit. Friedman held a trial from February 25 to March 7, 2014. On March 21, he ruled for the plaintiffs, ending Michigan's denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette immediately filed an emergency motion requesting a stay of the ruling.
Four of Michigan's 83 county clerks opened their offices on Saturday, March 22, to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples: Barb Byrum of Ingham County, Nancy Waters of Muskegon County, Lisa Brown of Oakland County, and Lawrence Kestenbaum of Washtenaw County. The four counties issued 323 marriage licenses that day. That same day, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, citing the need for more time to fully consider the Attorney's General's request, temporarily stayed enforcement of Friedman's ruling until March 26. On March 25, the Sixth Circuit stayed the ruling indefinitely. On March 28, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government will recognize the validity of same-sex marriages performed on March 22.
In May 2008, the Michigan Supreme Court held that the amendment added to the state constitution in 2004 bans not only same-sex marriage and civil unions, but also public employee domestic partnership benefits such as health insurance. The ruling however had little effect since most public employers relaxed their eligibility criteria to avoid violating the amendment's restrictions.
On September 15, 2011, the Michigan House of Representatives, in a 64-44 vote, approved a bill that would ban most public employers, though not colleges and universities, from offering health benefits to the domestic partners of their employees. It did not apply to workers whose benefits are established by the Michigan Civil Service Commission. On December 7, 2011, the Michigan State Senate, in a 27-9 vote, approved of the bill. On December 22, 2011, Governor Rick Snyder signed the legislation. Five same-sex couples challenged the law in Bassett v. Snyder. On June 28, 2013, U.S. District Judge David M. Lawson issued a preliminary injunction blocking the state from enforcing its law banning local governments and school districts from offering health benefits to their employees' domestic partners. He wrote: "It is hard to argue with a straight face that the primary purpose—indeed, perhaps the sole purpose—of the statute is other than to deny health benefits to the same-sex partners of public employees. But that can never be a legitimate governmental purpose". He rejected the state's arguments that "fiscal responsibility" was the law's rationale. On February 14, 2014, the state asked him to lift that preliminary injunction, repeating its arguments about the "fiscal insecurity of local governments" and eliminating "irrational and unfair" local programs.
Local domestic partnerships
While there are no statewide recognition, these local governments recognize domestic partnerships:
- City of Ann Arbor: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples. Notarized applications are accepted by mail when accompanied by appropriate payment.
- City of Detroit: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
- City of East Lansing
- City of Kalamazoo: Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
- Ingham County
- Washtenaw County: Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
- Wayne County: Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
A October 2004 EPIC-MRA poll found that 61% of Michigan voters supported a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, while 34% oppose it. When asked about what institutions of commitment same-sex couples should be allowed to enter, 17% said same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, 43% said they should not be allowed to marry but should be able to form civil unions, and 36% opposed both same-sex marriage and civil unions.
A October 2004 Glengariff Group poll showed 24% of Michiganders supported marriage rights for same-sex partners, and only 42% supported legal recognition of civil unions.
A June 2009 Glengariff Group poll showed a substantial shift in opinions towards the legal recognition of same-sex unions in Michigan, with 63.7% of residents supporting civil unions for same-sex couples and 46.5% of residents supporting full marriage rights for same-sex couples.
A July 2011 Public Policy Polling survey found that 33% of Michigan voters thought that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 53% thought it should be illegal and 14% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 62% of Michigan voters supported the legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 29% supporting same-sex marriage, 33% supporting civil unions but not marriage, 35% favoring no legal recognition and 3% not sure.
Nearly a year later, in May 2012, a Public Policy Polling survey found that 41% of Michigan voters thought that same sex marriage should be legal, while 45% thought it should be illegal and 14% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 70% of Michigan voters supported the legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 39% supporting same-sex marriage, 31% supporting civil unions but not marriage, 27% favoring no legal recognition and 3% not sure.
A November 2012 Michigan State University poll found support for gay marriage in Michigan had increased significantly. The survey found that 56% of the state’s residents supported gay marriage while 39% opposed it.
A May 2013 Glengariff Group poll found that 57% of Michigan residents support same-sex marriage while 38% oppose. The poll also found at least 90% of the state's voters favor some legal protections for LGBT people and 65% favor legal changes permitting civil unions, adoption, inheritance rights, hate crime protections, and domestic benefits. The poll was conducted from May 8–10, 2013 and had a margin of error of 4 points.
A May 2013 Free Press/WXYZ-TV/EPIC-MRA survey found that 51% of Michigan residents support allowing same-sex couples to marry, while 41% are opposed.
A January–February 2014, a Glengariff Group poll found that 56% of Michigan residents support same-sex marriage while 34% oppose, and 59% believe that Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage passed by voters in 2004 is unconstitutional. Additionally, 63% support recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.
A February 2014 Michigan State University (MSU) poll found that 54% of Michigan residents support allowing same-sex couples to marry, while 36% are opposed. 10% are unsure. The poll had a margin of error of 3 points. Support for allowing same-sex couples to marry was highest among those 30 and younger at 68%, while 47% of those age 65 and older were supportive. The study also found that 59% also supported same-sex couple adopting children.
An April 2014 Public Policy Polling survey found that 49% of Michigan voters thought that the same-sex marriages performed in the state on March 22, 2014 should be recognized, while 44% thought they should not be recognized, and 7% were not sure.
A May 2014 Free Press/WXYZ-TV/EPIC-MRA survey found that 47% of Michigan residents support allowing same-sex couples to marry, while 46% are opposed, and 7% are either undecided or refused to say.
- LGBT rights in Michigan
- Michigan Proposal 04-2
- Domestic partnership in the United States
- Same-sex marriage in the United States
- House OK's ban on gay marriages
- State Senate OK's gay marriage, sends bill to Engler
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