Mich. Gay Marriages Begin After Judge's Ruling - Law and Daily Life
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Mich. Gay Marriages Begin After Judge's Ruling

Michigan's gay marriage ban was struck down Friday afternoon by a federal judge, who ruled that the prohibition on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Just 15 hours later, same-sex couples in Michigan began tying the knot.

U.S. District Court Judge Bernard A. Friedman ruled that the Michigan Marriage Amendment -- which denied recognition of gay marriages performed in- and out-of-state -- violated the constitutional right to equal protection of the laws, reports The Associated Press.

Though Michigan's attorney general requested an emergency stay, at least three county clerks' offices said they planned to issue marriage licenses to gay couples today; in fact, the state's first same-sex marriage took place just after 8 a.m. in Ingham County, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Judge Finds Equal Protection Violation

In the last four months, federal courts in several states have struck down those states' gay marriage bans as unconstitutional: Utah in December, Oklahoma in January, and Virginia and Texas in February, just to name a few.

All of those cases cited a recent U.S. Supreme Court case, U.S. v. Windsor, in which the High Court struck down part of a federal law that had denied federal recognition to legally married same-sex couples. As part of the majority opinion in Windsor, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that laws like the Defense of Marriage Act were insulting to the "dignity" of same-sex couples and "humiliates" their children.

In more legal terms, Judge Freidman ruled that Michigan's gay marriage ban also violated the promise of equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Judge Friedman summed it up nicely:

"Many Michigan residents have religious convictions whose principles govern the conduct of their daily lives and inform their own viewpoints about marriage. Nonetheless, these views cannot strip other citizens of the guarantees of equal protection under the law."

Same-Sex Couples Marry as State Seeks Stay

In many of the states affected by similar federal cases, judges have stayed their rulings, preventing gay marriages from beginning and allowing for the state to appeal. However, an automatic stay was not part of Judge Friedman's ruling Friday.

That's why one Michigan county clerk told the Free Press his office would begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses today. "As far as we're concerned, we're abiding by the federal court appellates," Washtenaw County Clerk Lawrence Kestenbaum said. "I know there's going to be attempts to get a stay, but I'm assuming there won't be one by [Saturday]. If there is, then I'll stop."

Just 10 minutes after Judge Friedman's ruling was released, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency stay, the Free Press reports. But as of Saturday morning, a stay had not yet been issued.

With same-sex nuptials already underway, Michigan becomes the 18th U.S. state to allow same-sex marriage, according to the Free Press.

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