Nation

Mich. won’t recognize first wave of gay marriages

Governor wants legal process to play itself out

Renecia Hall and Kristen Martin awaited their marriage license from the Rev. Bill Freeman at a Unitarian Universalist church in Muskegon, Mich., on Saturday.
Natalie Kolb/The Chronicle via Associated Press
Renecia Hall and Kristen Martin awaited their marriage license from the Rev. Bill Freeman at a Unitarian Universalist church in Muskegon, Mich., on Saturday.

DETROIT — Michigan state agencies will not immediately recognize hundreds of same-sex marriages performed in the hours before an appeals court put on hold a judge’s ruling that tossed out a state ban on gay marriage, the governor’s office said Sunday.

About 300 couples wed Saturday in four Michigan counties before a federal appeals court placed a stay on a Detroit federal judge’s decision overturning the state’s 2004 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The decision blocks the state’s county clerks from issuing new same-sex marriage licenses until the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit decides whether to extend the stay. That is expected no earlier than Wednesday.

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Until then, state agencies face the challenge of whether to recognize same-sex marriages performed Saturday.

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‘‘The governor and administration are not weighing in on these issues at this point,’’ said Sarah Wurfel, a spokesman for Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican.

Paul Sancya/associated press
Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown signed a marriage license for Justin Flowers and Josh Redder in Pontiac. About 300 couples wed Saturday in four Michigan counties before a federal appeals court placed a stay on a federal judge’s decision overturning the state’s 2004 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Asked whether that would prevent, for example, a newlywed gay couple from applying for adoption of children on Monday, Wurfel said that Snyder’s office considers everything to be on hold for now.

The order is stayed at least until Wednesday, Wurfel said, so “the issue is moot at this point until resolved.’’

Besides adoption, Snyder’s policy could block those couples from applying for tax and other state benefits available to married couples in Michigan.

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On Friday, US District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled that a 2004 voter-approved amendment to the Michigan Constitution that limited marriage to opposite-sex couples violated the US Constitution’s right of equal protection under the law.

On Saturday, clerks in Ingham, Oakland, Muskegon, and Washtenaw counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Michigan has 83 counties.

Later Saturday, the US appeals court froze the decision, saying the time-out will ‘‘allow a more reasoned consideration’’ of the state’s request to stop same-sex marriages.

The appeals court acted on a request from Attorney General Bill Schuette, who defended the state’s same-sex marriage ban against a challenge from two suburban Detroit women seeking to adopt each other’s children.

In his appeal, Schuette noted the Supreme Court in January suspended a similar decision that struck down Utah’s gay-marriage ban.

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Schuette’s spokeswoman, Joy Yearout, said a stay would preserve a state constitutional ban pending the appeal’s outcome. Yearout later said her office anticipates that the appeals court ‘‘will issue a permanent stay, just as courts have ruled in similar cases across the country.’’

After the Supreme Court intervened in Utah, that state’s governor ordered state agencies to stop moving forward with any new benefits for hundreds of same-sex couples who married during the three-week window until the courts resolved the issue.