Same-sex marriage in Michigan

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Same-sex marriage is legal in Michigan and all other U.S. states as per the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015.

Michigan had 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 U.S. District Court 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. On November 6, 2014, the Sixth Circuit reversed the lower court's ruling and upheld Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage. The state has been ordered to recognize the 323 marriages performed on March 22, and the state has announced it will not appeal that order.

Same-sex marriage[edit]


In June 1995, 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, DeBoer v. Snyder, 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] On March 7, 2013, 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.[5] 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.[6] Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette immediately filed an emergency motion requesting a stay of the ruling.[7]

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.[8][9] The four counties issued 323 marriage licenses that day.[10] The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, temporarily stayed enforcement of Friedman's ruling that same day,[11] and stayed the ruling indefinitely on March 25.[12] On March 28, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government recognizes the validity of same-sex marriages licensed on March 22.[13]

On November 6, 2014, the Sixth Circuit reversed the lower court's ruling and upheld Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage.[14]

Later, the case has been appellate to the Supreme Court of the United States. The ruling was handed down June 27, 2015.[15]

Caspar v. Snyder[edit]

Eight same-sex couples represented by the ACLU filed suit in U.S. district court on July 25, 2014, seeking recognition of their so-called "window marriages" established on March 21 and 22, 2014, before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed a district court ruling–later reversed–in DeBoer v. Snyder that found Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.[16] The state has asked the district court to suspend proceedings pending final resolution of DeBoer or to find those marriages invalid.[17] On January 15, 2015, U.S. District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith ruled that the state must recognize those marriages, but stayed implementation of his ruling for 21 days. He wrote: "In these circumstances, what the state has joined together, it may not put asunder."[18][19] On February 4, Governor Rick Snyder announced that the state will recognize those marriages and not appeal the decision.[20]

Carrick v. Snyder[edit]

In January 2015, pastor Neil Patrick Carrick of Detroit Michigan brought a case, Carrick v. Snyder, against Michigan, stating that the state's ban of same sex marriage and polygamy violates the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.[21][22]

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.[23] The ruling however had little effect since most public employers relaxed their eligibility criteria to avoid violating the amendment's restrictions.[24]

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.[25] 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.[26][27] 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.[28]

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]

Public opinion for same-sex marriage in Michigan
Poll source Date(s)
Margin of
 % support  % opposition  % no opinion  % refused
New York Times/CBS News/YouGov September 20-October 1, 2014 2,560 likely voters ± 2.4% 47% 39% 14% -
EPIC-MRA September 25–29, 2014 600 adults ± 4% 47% 47% 6% -
EPIC-MRA May 17–20, 2014 600 likely voters ± 4% 47% 46% 7% -
Marketing Resource Group of Lansing March 2014  ? ± ?% 45% 50% - -
State of the State Survey December 16, 2013 – February 10, 2014 1,008 adults ± 3.1% 54% 36% - -
Glengariff Group Inc. January 29-February 1, 2014 600 likely presidential election year voters ± 4% 56.2% 33.8% - -
Glengariff Group Inc. May 8–10, 2013 600 voters ± 4% 56.8% 37.6% - -
EPIC-MRA May 2013 600 likely voters ± 4% 51% 41% - -
State of the State Survey June 12-August 13, 2012 1,015 adults ± ?% 56% 39% - -
Public Policy Polling May 24–27, 2012 500 voters ± 4.4% 41% 45% 14% -
Glengariff Group Inc. May 10–11, 2012 600 likely 2012 November general election voters ± 4% 44.3% 43.7% 11% 1%
Public Policy Polling July 21–24, 2011 593 voters ± 4% 33% 53% 14% -
Glengariff Group Inc. January 2011  ? ± ?% 38.5% 50.2% - -
State of the State Survey 2010  ? ± ?% 48% 51% - -
Glengariff Group Inc. October 2004  ? ± ?% 24% 61% - -

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. ^ "No immediate ruling on Michigan's 2004 gay marriage ban". Associated Press. March 7, 2013. Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Federal judge strikes down Michigan's gay marriage ban". FOX News. March 21, 2014. Retrieved March 21, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Michigan AG Schuette files for stay on gay marriage ruling, citing will of voters". Detroit Free Press. March 21, 2014. 
  8. ^ "3 Mich. counties already set to marry gay couples". USA Today. March 22, 2014. Retrieved March 22, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Michigan clerks marry gay couples after judge strikes down ban". Chicago Tribune. March 22, 2014. Retrieved March 22, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Ruling to strike down Michigan gay marriage ban put on hold". Reuters. March 22, 2014. Retrieved March 22, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Appellate court reverses course, issues temporary stay on same-sex marriages until Wednesday". Detroit Free Press. March 22, 2014. Retrieved March 22, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Court indefinitely suspends overturn of gay marriage ban in Michigan". Daily News. March 25, 2014. Retrieved March 30, 2014. 
  13. ^ Oosting, Jonathan (March 28, 2014). "Attorney General Eric Holder: Federal government will recognize same-sex marriages in Michigan". Mlive Michigan. Retrieved November 10, 2014. 
  14. ^ Eckholm, Erik. "Court Upholds Four States’ Bans on Same-Sex Marriage". Retrieved November 6, 2014. 
  15. ^ Howe, Amy (April 28, 2015). "No clear answers on same-sex marriage: In Plain English". SCOTUSblog. 
  16. ^ "Caspar v. Snyder - Freedom to Marry in Michigan". ACLU. Retrieved November 18, 2014. 
  17. ^ Geidner, Chris (November 16, 2014). "Michigan Officials: March Same-Sex Marriages From The State Are 'Void'". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved November 18, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Opinion and Order". U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  19. ^ Snow, Justin (January 15, 2015). "Federal judge rules Michigan must recognize same-sex marriages". Metro Weekly. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  20. ^ Eggert, David (February 4, 2015). "Gov. Rick Snyder says Michigan will recognize about 300 same-sex marriages performed in 2014". U.S. News & World Report. Associated Press. Retrieved February 4, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Carrick v. Snyder et al". Justia Dockets & Filings. 
  22. ^ Oralandar Brand-Williams, The Detroit News (13 January 2015). "Minister sues Mich. for right to marry same-sex couples". 
  23. ^ National Pride at Work, Inc. v. Governor of Michigan 748 N.W.2d 524
  24. ^ "Ruling on same-sex benefits weighed". May 8, 2008. Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
  25. ^ House Bill 4770 (2011)
  26. ^ White, Ed (June 28, 2013). "Mich. ban on domestic partner benefits blocked". Pioneer Press. Retrieved February 18, 2014. 
  27. ^ Lederman, Marty (July 1, 2013). "After Windsor: Michigan same-sex partners benefits suit advances". SCOTUSblog. Retrieved July 2, 2013. 
  28. ^ 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. 
  29. ^ a b c d Governments Offering Benefits
  30. ^ "Charter Provision and Ethics Ordinance" (PDF). City of Detroit. Retrieved March 6, 2012. 
  31. ^ Wittrock, Angela (January 31, 2012). "East Lansing may join lawsuit against domestic partner benefits ban". Michigan Live LLC. Retrieved March 6, 2012. 
  32. ^ "Domestic Partnership Rights by State". Retrieved December 10, 2013.