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Court extends freeze on Michigan gay marriages

March 26, 2014

DETROIT (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday put an indefinite halt to gay marriage in Michigan while it takes a longer look at a judge’s decision overturning the Midwestern state’s 2004 ban on same-sex nuptials.

The court granted the state’s request to suspend a ruling by U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, who declared the voter-approved ban unconstitutional on Friday. Hundreds of same-sex couples in four counties were married Saturday before the appeals court stepped in with a temporary stay that had been set to expire Wednesday.

The push for legalizing same-sex marriage has rapidly gained momentum in the United States but has been a divisive issue in many states. Seventeen states and Washington, D.C. issue licenses for same-sex marriage. Since December, bans on gay marriage have been overturned in Texas, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia, but appeals have put those cases on hold.

The Michigan case was brought by two Detroit-area nurses who had challenged the gay marriage ban. Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer live with three adopted children, but they can’t jointly adopt each other’s kids because joint adoption in Michigan is tied to marriage.

The federal appeals court voted 2-1 to halt gay marriage. Judges Karen Caldwell and John Rogers said a stay is appropriate, especially because the Supreme Court ordered a similar time-out in January in a gay marriage case in Utah.

It will be months before the next major step by the Cincinnati-based court. It set May and June deadlines for additional filings by the state and attorneys for the two nurses. The court has yet to schedule a day for arguments.

Friedman, a judge in Detroit, ruled last week in favor of Rowse and DeBoer. The judge held a two-week trial, listening to experts mostly talk about the impact of same-sex parenting on children. Friedman said conservative social scientists and economists who testified for Michigan were “unbelievable” and “clearly represent a fringe viewpoint.”

Nearly 60 percent of Michigan voters in 2004 approved adding an amendment to the constitution that says marriage only is between a man and a woman. Friedman, however, said the election result was no defense to discrimination against gays and lesbians.

What remains unclear is the legal status of more than 300 couples who were married Saturday in Michigan. Supporters of same-sex marriage are urging the Obama administration to recognize the marriages for purposes of federal benefits as it has done in other states.

Gov. Rick Snyder has not signaled if the state will recognize the marriages.


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