ACLU Sues Michigan to Recognize Marriages of Same-Sex Couples
DETROIT – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a lawsuit today to guarantee that the marriages of 300 same-sex couples performed in Michigan last month are recognized by the state. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of eight same-sex couples who were married after a federal judge struck down the state’s ban and before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals put the decision on hold.
“As a matter of law and fundamental fairness, the state is obligated to extend the protections that flow from marriage to all those who celebrated their weddings last month,” said Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director. “Doing anything less treats legally married gay and lesbian couples like second-class citizens, and adds to the confusion and instability these loving families have endured.”
On Friday, March 21, Judge Bernard Friedman struck down Michigan’s ban on the freedom to marry as violating federal law. The next day, approximately 300 same-sex couples celebrated this historic ruling by getting married after four county clerks opened their offices to issue marriage licenses.
A few days later, Governor Rick Snyder announced that, while the marriages were legal, the state would not recognize them for the purposes of providing state benefits that are afforded to married couples. His decision was followed by an announcement by the federal government that it would recognize the marriages for federal purposes.
“We knew immediately that we would get married if given the opportunity in order to protect our children. Recently, our son Keegan discovered that both his dads weren't recognized as his legal family. He was devastated and there was nothing we could do about it,” said Clint McCormack, a plaintiff in the case along with his husband Bryan Reamer. Clint and Bryan have been together for 22 years and are caring for 13 children.
“To put children through this kind of stress is inexcusable and unforgivable. How do I explain that our family isn’t recognized to my 5 year-old? Or my eight year old? I don't want them to go through the pain that Keegan went through.”
Because of Governor Snyder’s refusal to recognize the marriages of the 300 couples, these families are precluded from enjoying the many benefits of marriage in Michigan, including providing health insurance to spouses, jointly adopting children, and ensuring the financial stability of their families. In addition to Clint and Bryan, the case is brought on behalf of:
- Glenna DeJong and Marsha Caspar, of Ingham County, who have been together for 27 years and were the first same-sex couple to get married in Michigan.
- Bianca Racine and Carrie Miller, of Oakland County, who have been together for three years. Bianca is in the National Guard; however Carrie will not be recognized as her spouse by the state Veterans Affairs agencies.
- Martin Contreras and Keith Orr, of Washtenaw County, who have been together for 28 years, but worry about the state’s refusal to recognize their marriage on health benefits and state income taxes.
- Samantha Wolf and Martha Rutledge, of Ingham County, who have been together for two years. Martha has ongoing health concerns stemming from a car accident. She would like to be covered on her wife’s health insurance.
- Frank Colasonti, Jr. and James Barclay Ryder, of Oakland County, who have been together for 26 years. Frank would like to adjust his pension plan to provide Jim with continued survivor benefits and health care in the event of Frank’s death.
- Kelly Callison and Anne Callison, of Washtenaw County, who have been together for five years and have a two-year-old son. They would like to jointly adopt their son.
- James Anteau and Jared Haddock, of Oakland County, who have been together for 16 years. James would like Jared to be covered under his health insurance as his spouse.
The lawsuit argues that once same-sex couples are legally married in Michigan, they gain protections that cannot be taken away retroactively. Furthermore, the U.S. Constitution compels state officials to recognize those protections regardless of the ultimate outcome of the appeal of Judge Friedman’s ruling.
The lawsuit is separate from the original federal case challenging Michigan’s marriage ban, which is on appeal before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. That case was brought by private attorneys on behalf of an Oakland County lesbian couple – April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse – who have been together for more than a decade and are raising three adopted children. The ACLU of Michigan filed a friend-of-the-court brief in that case.
In addition to Moss, the couples are represented by Jay Kaplan, Dan Korobkin, Michael J. Steinberg and Brooke Tucker of the ACLU of Michigan; John Knight of the National ACLU; and ACLU cooperating attorneys Andrew Nicklehoff of Sachs Waldman, PC, and Julian Mortenson, a University of Michigan law professor.
Key News & Documents
Read more and view pictures of the families involved in this case
Read the legal complaint
ACLU of Michigan Issues: LGBT Rights