DETROIT — Same-sex couples who were married hours after Michigan’s ban on gay nuptials was overturned sued Gov. Rick Snyder today to try to force the state to recognize their newlywed status and grant the legal benefits that come with it.
More than 300 couples were married in four counties on a Saturday in March, a day after a federal judge struck down Michigan’s gay marriage ban. But Snyder won’t recognize those marriages while a higher court considers an appeal of the decision — a process that could take months or even longer.
No matter what happens, the marriages were legally performed before an appeals court stepped in and suspended the historic ruling and must be recognized, said Jay Kaplan, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.
He said the couples’ rights to Equal Protection under the U.S. Constitution are being violated by Snyder.
“By retroactively stripping ... marriages of legal recognition, the governor has placed plaintiffs and their families in an intolerable state of legal limbo that threatens their well-being, health, financial security and family integrity,” the lawsuit states.
Kaplan was flanked by many couples who described the sudden joy of marriage and the crushing blow of Snyder’s decision just a few days later.
Frank Colasonti Jr. of Oakland County, a retired school administrator, said he tried to add his husband as a pension beneficiary but was rejected. Samantha Wolf of Ingham County, a state employee, wanted to get benefits for her wife but was turned down, too.
In response to the lawsuit, Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said the marriages won’t be recognized for now because same-sex marriage is illegal again while a challenge to the 2004 constitutional amendment is reviewed by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We’re very sensitive to the feelings and uncertainty regarding this issue and are hoping for a swift resolution for all involved,” Wurfel said.
But unlike Michigan, the federal government is recognizing the marriages for the purpose of federal tax law and other benefits.
Clint McCormack of Ingham County fought back tears as he explained how he and Bryan Reamer have 10 adopted children. They live with nine, along with three foster children. But they can’t jointly adopt the kids because that’s reserved for married couples in Michigan, and the state won’t recognize their same-sex marriage.
“To put children through this stress and instability is inexcusable,” said McCormack, who was accompanied at a news conference by three sons.
The plaintiffs include Michigan’s first married same-sex couple, Marsha Caspar and Glenna DeJong of Ingham County, who have been together for 27 years.
“Now we must wait again,” Caspar said.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith in Flint.