Eight same-sex couples who wed last month are suing the state of Michigan and its Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to win recognition for their marriages, and the benefits that come with it.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed the lawsuit on Monday to ensure that 300 same-sex couples, who married hours after a federal judge struck down the state’s 10-year-old gay-marriage ban, aren’t treated as “second-class” citizens.
The eight plaintiffs argue they aren’t receiving state marriage rights similar to those offered to heterosexual couples, such as health insurance for their partners and joint adoption privileges.
“As a matter of law and fundamental fairness, the state is obligated to extend the protections that flow from marriage to all those who celebrated their weddings last month,” Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director, said. “Doing anything less treats legally married gay and lesbian couples like second-class citizens, and adds to the confusion and instability these loving families have endured.”
Several counties began granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples right after U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman struck down the same-sex marriage ban on March 21. At the request of the state, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a temporary stay of the ruling a day later, halting further marriages and creating a legislative limbo. Meanwhile, the federal government said it will legally recognize the marriages and that the families will be eligible for federal benefits.
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Snyder has acknowledged that the marriages were, in fact, legal. But he said that the appellate court’s decision to stay Friedman’s ruling means the ban remains in effect. Because of this, the legally married same-sex couples can't benefit from the same rights as heterosexual couples.
“We won’t recognize the benefits of that marriage until there is a removal of the stay or there is an upholding of the judge’s opinion by the Court of Appeals or a higher court,” Snyder said.
Clint McCormack, a plaintiff in the case, has been with his husband, Bryan Reamer, for 22 years. The Farmington couple have 13 children. McCormack said that recently one of their sons discovered the marriage wasn't recognized as legal in the state of Michigan. "To put children through this kind of stress is inexcusable and unforgivable,” he said.