U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Friday morning that the federal government will legally recognize some 300 same-sex couples married in Michigan over last weekend before a federal court halted the weddings, even though Michigan’s governor refuses to recognize the marriages.
On March 21, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in Michigan, leading approximately 300 same-sex couples to rush to get married in the state. A day later, the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a stay ordering the marriages to stop until an appellate ruling on the matter. The stay placed the same-sex couples into somewhat of a legal limbo, as Republican Gov. Rick Snyder said he will not recognize the marriages as valid nor deliver state benefits until the stay is lifted.
Holder, however, says the federal government will recognize the marriages and will extend those benefits within its jurisdiction to the gay and lesbian couples who were wed during the brief window, according to the Washington Post.
“I have determined that the same-sex marriages performed last Saturday in Michigan will be recognized by the federal government,” Holder said in a statement Friday morning. “These families will be eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages.”
“The governor of Michigan has made clear that the marriages that took place on Saturday were lawful and valid when entered into, although Michigan will not extend state rights and benefits tied to these marriages pending further legal proceedings,” Holder continued. “For purposes of federal law, as I announced in January with respect to similarly situated same-sex couples in Utah, these Michigan couples will not be asked to wait for further resolution in the courts before they may seek federal benefits to which they are entitled.”
This is not the first time the attorney general has extended federal benefits to same-sex couples married in contentious circumstances. In January, he announced that the government would recognize some 1,300 same-sex marriages that took place in Utah under similar conditions. Last month, he ordered all Justice Department employees to treat same-sex marriages with the same level of protection as any other marriage across all of the department’s programs.
According to the Detroit News, Holder’s decision came at least in part on the urging of six Michigan Democratic congressmen who asked him to take the same steps he did with Utah.
"The court's decision was a historic step toward equal protection for all American families, regardless of sexual orientation. By clarifying the federal status of these now married same-sex couples in Michigan — as you did in January for similarly situated same-sex couples in Utah —you can take another step toward full equality," the letter read.