Not So Fast! Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder Won’t Recognize Same-Sex Marriages

The see-saw has tipped again in Michigan’s volatile same-sex marriage brouhaha.

Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder announced today that the state will not recognize the more than 300 same-sex marriages which took place last weekend.

Governor Snyder acknowledged that the marriages were legal.  However, the state will not recognize the benefits of the same-sex marriages, until release of the stay which was imposed the following day by an appeals court.

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THE AMENDMENT.  The Michigan Marriage Amendment, an amendment to the State Constitution which stipulates that marriage is between one man and one woman, was approved in 2004 by 59% of Michigan voters.  The amendment reads:

To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.

THE LEGAL CHALLENGE.  Two lesbian nurses  who are in a long-term relationship challenged Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriages, calling it unconstitutional,  Their challenge was successful; and at the close of business Friday, March 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit declared that the ban was in violation of federal constitutional provisions.

THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ STATEMENT.  Later the same day, seven Catholic bishops in Michigan, led by Detroit’s Archbishop Allen Vigneron, signed a statement reiterating that marriage is and can only ever be a unique relationship solely between one man and one woman, regardless of the decision of a judge or future electoral vote.  The bishops’ statement confirmed that

“…the Catholic bishops of this state, working through the Michigan Catholic Conference, will collaborate with those who are upholding Michigan’s Marriage Amendment and adoption statute and will assist to the greatest extent possible efforts to appeal Judge Friedman’s most regrettable ruling.”

THE MARRIAGE LICENSES AND THE FIRST WEDDINGS.  Four counties took the extraordinary step of issuing marriage licenses immediately on Saturday–some even opening their doors for extra hours to accommodate same-sex couples who wanted to marry.  On Saturday morning, March 22, hundreds of homosexual couples  were in line at their local Secretary of State office to apply for marriage licenses.  By the following day, more than 300 homosexual couples had officially tied the knot in the state.

THE PLANNED APPEAL.  But by later in the day on Saturday, Michigan  Attorney General Bill Schuette and Governor Rick Snyder filed an immediate notice that they planned to appeal the decision and asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to put the ruling on hold pending a review.

THE STAY.  With an appeal looming, the U.S. appeals court issued a temporary stay, restoring the Michigan Marriage Amendment.  On Tuesday, March 25,  the court extended the stay indefinitely.

It will likely take months for the appeals court to  rule on whether Michigan’s constitutional amendment violates the U.S. Constitution.  In the interim, the stay puts a halt to any additional same-sex marriages.  Those couples who did attempt a same-sex “marriage” before the stay was imposed are left in limbo–legally married, but unable to avail themselves of benefits such as inheritance or family insurance programs.

THE GOVERNOR’S RESPONSE.  Governor Snyder, recognizing that the issue will be wending its way through the courts for months or years to come, wanted to protect against any official policy change  which would need to be reversed if future court rulings reinstate the ban on gay nuptials.  On Wedneday, March 26, he announced that his office will not recognize the more than 300 new marriages which took place last Saturday.  Governor Snyder told reporters,

“We did our own homework and I believe this is a reasonable legal position to take based on the available literature and law.” 

THE MICHIGAN CATHOLIC CONFERENCE.  The Michigan Catholic Conference, applauded the Office of Attorney General for upholding the state constitutional amendment.  In a statement, the MCC said:

“The Catholic community has made clear its strong support for the 2004 voter approved marriage amendment, and that any legal decision to overturn the amendment should be appealed and overturned,” said Paul A. Long, Michigan Catholic Conference President and CEO. “The state attorney general has vowed to defend the constitution and we are thankful for his efforts to uphold the natural definition of marriage between one man and one woman. We hold that the institution of marriage was ordained by God through nature, therefore no appointed judge, elected official or electoral vote has the right to redefine what it did not create. Michigan Catholic Conference is hopeful for favorable court rulings in the coming days and will continue to support the state’s legal effort to defend the 2004 voter-approved marriage amendment.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION.  Some supporters of so-called same-sex marriage have urged the Obama administration to recognize the marriages for the purpose of federal benefits, as the government has done in Arizona.  As yet, there has been no comment from the U.S. Justice Department or other federal officials after Governor Snyder’s announcement.

In 2011, at the direction of the President’, the Justice Department ended its enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), even though the DOMA had been enacted by vote of a majority of the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.


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