Same-sex marriage in Michigan

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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.

Same-sex marriage[edit]


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.[1][2] Governor John Engler signed both bills into law.

Constitutional amendment[edit]

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.[3]

DeBoer v. Snyder[edit]

Main article: 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".[4] They did so on September 7.[5] 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.[6] On July 1, citing the recent Supreme Court decision in Windsor, he denied the state officials' motion to dismiss the suit.[7] 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.[8] Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette immediately filed an emergency motion requesting a stay of the ruling.[9]

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.[10][11] The four counties issued 323 marriage licenses that day.[12] 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.[13][14] On March 25, the Sixth Circuit stayed the ruling indefinitely.[15] 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.[16]

Domestic partnerships[edit]


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.[17] The ruling however had little effect since most public employers relaxed their eligibility criteria to avoid violating the amendment's restrictions.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20][21] 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.[22]

Local domestic partnerships[edit]

Map of Michigan counties and cities that offer domestic partner benefits either county-wide or in particular cities.
  City offers domestic partner benefits
  County-wide partner benefits through domestic partnership
  County or city does not offer domestic partner benefits

While there are no statewide recognition, these local governments recognize domestic partnerships:


Public opinion[edit]

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.[27]

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.[28]

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.[28]

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.[29]

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.[30]

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.[31]

A May 2013 Glengariff Group poll found that 57% of Michigan residents support same-sex marriage while 38% oppose.[32] 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.[33]

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.[34]

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.[35][36]

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.[37]

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.[38]

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.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ House OK's ban on gay marriages
  2. ^ State Senate OK's gay marriage, sends bill to Engler
  3. ^ "Michigan domestic partnerships". Retrieved October 23, 2013. 
  4. ^ Ferretti, Christine (August 29, 2012). "Judge tells couple to consider challenging state's gay marriage ban". Detroit News. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  5. ^ Ferretti, Christine (September 7, 2012). "Hazel Park women challenge Michigan's marriage amendment". Detroit News. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  6. ^ "No immediate ruling on Michigan's 2004 gay marriage ban". Associated Press. March 7, 2013. Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  7. ^ Geidner, Chris (July 1, 2013). "Federal Judge In Michigan Allows Challenge To Marriage Ban To Go Forward". BuzzFeed. Retrieved July 1, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Federal judge strikes down Michigan's gay marriage ban". FOX News. March 21, 2014. Retrieved March 21, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Michigan AG Schuette files for stay on gay marriage ruling, citing will of voters". Detroit Free Press. March 21, 2014. 
  10. ^ "3 Mich. counties already set to marry gay couples". USA Today. March 22, 2014. Retrieved March 22, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Michigan clerks marry gay couples after judge strikes down ban". Chicago Tribune. March 22, 2014. Retrieved March 22, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Ruling to strike down Michigan gay marriage ban put on hold". Reuters. March 22, 2014. Retrieved March 22, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Appellate court reverses course, issues temporary stay on same-sex marriages until Wednesday". Detroit Free Press. March 22, 2014. Retrieved March 22, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Michigan gay marriages could fall into legal limbo". USA Today. March 22, 2014. Retrieved March 23, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Court indefinitely suspends overturn of gay marriage ban in Michigan". Daily News. March 25, 2014. Retrieved March 30, 2014. 
  16. ^ Attorney General Eric Holder: Federal government will recognize same-sex marriages in Michigan
  17. ^ National Pride at Work, Inc. v. Governor of Michigan 748 N.W.2d 524
  18. ^ "Ruling on same-sex benefits weighed". May 8, 2008. Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
  19. ^ House Bill 4770 (2011)
  20. ^ White, Ed (June 28, 2013). "Mich. ban on domestic partner benefits blocked". Pioneer Press. Retrieved February 18, 2014. 
  21. ^ Lederman, Marty (July 1, 2013). "After Windsor: Michigan same-sex partners benefits suit advances". SCOTUSblog. Retrieved July 2, 2013. 
  22. ^ Smith, Brian (February 17, 2014). "Gov. Rick Snyder asks federal judge to uphold same-sex benefits ban for public employees". M Live. Retrieved February 18, 2014. 
  23. ^ a b c d Governments Offering Benefits
  24. ^ "Charter Provision and Ethics Ordinance". City of Detroit. Retrieved March 6, 2012. 
  25. ^ Wittrock, Angela (January 31, 2012). "East Lansing may join lawsuit against domestic partner benefits ban". Michigan Live LLC. Retrieved March 6, 2012. 
  26. ^ "Domestic Partnership Rights by State". Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Michigan: July 2004 – Detroit Free Press/EPIC-MRA Poll – 17% Support Same-Sex Marriage, Additional 43% Support Civil Unions; 61% Support Amending the Constitution to Ban Gay Marriage" (PDF). Retrieved October 23, 2013. 
  28. ^ a b "Michigan Voters Shifting Views On Gay Couples". June 7, 2009. Retrieved October 23, 2013. 
  29. ^ "MI against gay marriage, for Democrats on legislative ballot" (Press release). Public Policy Polling. August 10, 2011. Retrieved October 23, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Support for gay marriage climbing in Michigan". Public Policy Polling. Retrieved January 6, 2012. 
  31. ^ "Support for gay marriage grows in Michigan". Michigan State University. Retrieved 11/19/12.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  32. ^ Dickerson, Brian (May 19, 2013). "Same-sex marriage: A no-brainer for Michigan". Detroit Free Press ( Retrieved October 23, 2013. 
  33. ^ "Poll: Most Mich. voters support same-sex marriage, broader gay rights". United Press International. May 15, 2013. Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  34. ^ a b Same-sex marriage losing support in Michigan, new poll indicates
  35. ^ Margolin, Emma (February 25, 2014). "‘A light at the end of the tunnel’ for marriage equality in Michigan". MSNBC. Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  36. ^ "Excerpt 1 from Michigan LGBT Rights Survey". Glengariff Group. Equality Michigan. February 2, 2014. Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  37. ^ Oosting, Jonathan. "MSU survey: Majority of Michigan residents support gay marriage as judge considers ban". Michigan News. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  38. ^ Public Policy Polling: "Clinton leads Republicans in Michigan" April 9, 2014, accessed April 10, 2014