When Michigan’s marriage equality ban was ruled unconstitutional by Detroit federal Judge Bernard Friedman on March 21, I was filled with pride.
I joined other marriage equality Michiganders in flooding Facebook with celebratory posts. I shared a Human Rights Campaign article, which praised the state’s progressive attitude and dismissal of anti-gay “science.”
By March 22, that article had no place on my wall.
Upon Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s request, the sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay preventing more same-sex marriages at present.
Three days later, on March 23, that same federal appeals court decided to prolong the stay.
By March 24, Gov. Rick Snyder said Michigan refused to recognize over 300 same-sex marriages performed before the freeze.
The only relatively “good” or redeeming result of this mess is Attorney General Eric Holder’s March 28 federal recognition of those marriages.
Though outrageously overdue, that recognition was at least a step in the right direction. The aforementioned spouses can now jointly file federal taxes, obtain spousal Social Security benefits and seek legal immigration statuses for their partner.
Yet for every one such step forward, Michigan is stumbling 10 paces back.
Though those marriages are now federally recognized as lawful, Michigan officials still refuse to extend the same basic humanity.
Until the appeals court comes to its senses, acquaints itself with the 21st century and realizes the validity of marriage equality, those couples are barred from state benefits. Michigan law denies them certain legal protections and opportunities such as joint adoption.
According to the Los Angeles Times, for recently wed couple Deborah Dolney and Jessie-Mae Secord, federal recognition is really good news but still a pain.
“Our marriage is legal but not quite legal enough,” Dolney said.
Judge Friedman is responsible for some of this legal limbo. Though his ruling is highly admirable, he probably should have suspended the effects of his decision until all the inevitable appeals were heard.
Gov. Snyder now considers the couples legally married but, due to the stay, will not grant any benefits.
This leaves couples in an unbearably frustrating state of uncertainty. Considering the Snyder administration’s sloppy treatment of this case, I am disappointed to call Michigan home. Though the federal government itself has betrayed a tiny glimpse of progress, our state lags pathetically behind.
In the end Lisa Brown, an Oakland County clerk who issued 142 of the marriage licenses, said it best.
“It is extremely disappointing that we have a governor who admits these marriages were legal, but would rather deny families their benefits while he wastes taxpayer dollars on a senseless appeal,” Brown said.
I urge Michigan lawmakers to cut to the chase and reach a fair conclusion, affording those couples (and, with any shred of decency, future same-sex spouses) the rights they so deserve.
Photo via clickondetroit.com