Paul Mattson and Roland Smith fill out paperwork as they stand in line for a marriage license at the Oakland County Courthouse. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
Officials in Michigan issued dozens of marriage licenses to
same-sex couples in hastily arranged, joyful ceremonies, a
day after a federal judge struck down the state's ban on
allowing gay couples to wed.
At least 50 people had lined up in the Oakland County clerk's
office in Pontiac, on the outskirts of the Detroit
metropolitan area, when Clerk Lisa Brown arrived to open it
at 8am local time carrying a heart-shaped balloon.
Brown's staff was among workers in several counties who
handed out paperwork to couples undeterred by the Michigan
attorney general's immediate appeal of the judge's decision.
Frank Colasonti, 61, and James Barclay Ryder, 48, became the
first gay couple to marry in the county. They wore dark
suits, with "Same Love, Same Rights" lapel pins.
"We're going to celebrate with a nice quiet lunch and then go
pick out our wedding rings," Colasonti said following the
ceremony, which took place 26 years after they met at a
Moments later, a lesbian couple emerged from the ceremony
room, filling the corridor with elated shouts. As more
couples arrived, Brown moved the proceedings to an auditorium
for a mass wedding ceremony of a dozen couples or more.
Clerics who support gay and lesbian rights also arrived and
found quiet corners in the hallways to conduct private
ceremonies for couples clutching their newly issued licenses.
Clerks in at least three other counties - Washtenaw, Ingham
and Muskegon - opened outside normal business hours on
Saturday to issue marriage licenses.
The Ingham County clerk's office said it issued at least 25
licenses. Lawrence Kestenbaum, the Washtenaw County clerk,
said on his Facebook page that his office issued 74 marriage
licenses before closing the door to new applicants at 1 p.m.
"Congratulations to each and every one!" he wrote.
Michigan's ban on same-sex marriages became law in 2004 as a
state constitutional amendment. It was challenged by a
lesbian couple from the Detroit suburb of Hazel Park after
the law prevented them from jointly adopting each other's
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said the law
breached equal protection rights guaranteed in the U.S.
Bill Schuette, the state's attorney general, asked the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit for an emergency order
to stay the decision.
The court said on Saturday afternoon the plaintiffs' lawyers
had until midday on Tuesday to file a response, making it
unlikely a decision on the stay would be issued before then.
Brown, the Oakland County clerk, said the appeal was "a waste
of taxpayer dollars."
"I'm no longer forced to discriminate in my office," she
said. "Couples who have been waiting years to receive equal
protection now have it."
If a stay is granted, same-sex couples marrying on Saturday
could find themselves in legal limbo.
In December, a federal district judge in Utah overturned that
state's ban on same-sex weddings and Utah's attorney general
Some 1,300 gay couples were married in Utah in the few weeks
before the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay while the appeal
is considered, leaving the newlyweds uncertain about whether
they have the rights generally afforded by marriage.
April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, the couple who successfully
challenged the Michigan ban, said on Friday they would not
marry until the legal uncertainty in their state was
Seventeen states plus the District of Columbia now allow
same-sex nuptials, a number that would be substantially
increased if a series of recent court decisions in other
states are upheld.
Supporters of the ban in Michigan, Utah and elsewhere have
cited tradition, religious texts and the welfare of children
to defend their belief that only opposite-sex marriage should
be legal, arguments that several courts have ruled not