ACLU Files Lawsuit: State Must Recognize Same-Sex Marriages

By |2014-04-14T09:00:00-04:00April 14th, 2014|Michigan, News|

James Ryder and his partner of 26 years, Frank Colasonti, Jr. were married on March 22 by Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown. The couple is one of eight couples represented by ACLU of Michigan who are filing suit against the state of Michigan today asking that their marriages be legally recognized. BTL photo: Andrew Potter


DETROIT – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a lawsuit today to ensure that the marriages of the more than 300 same-sex couples that took place last month are recognized by the state.
“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,” said Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director. “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.”
The lawsuit argues that once same-sex couples are legally married in Michigan, they gain protections that cannot be taken away retroactively. Furthermore, the U.S. Constitution compels state officials to recognize those protections regardless of the ultimate outcome of the appeal of Judge Friedman’s ruling.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of eight couples who married after Judge Bernard Friedman struck down Michigan’s ban on the freedom to marry as violating federal law and before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals put the decision on hold. Friedman did not include a stay in his March 21 decision, and for 24 hours same sex marriage was legal and recognized in Michigan, until Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette was able to convince the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to issue a stay late the next day March 22. During that window of opportunity over 300 same-sex couples married legally at the courthouses in the four counties of Oakland, Washtenaw, Ingham and Muskegon.
Gov. Snyder said that while the marriages performed on March 22 were legal, the state would not recognize them while the courts were deciding the issue. Snyder’s refusal to recognize the marriages of the 300 couples means they are precluded from enjoying the many benefits of marriage in Michigan, including providing health insurance to spouses, jointly adopting children, and ensuring the financial stability of their families.
In contrast, the U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, announced that the federal government will be recognizing the marriages for federal purposes.
To read the complaint filed today go to: http://www.aclumich.org/sites/default/files/2014_LGBT_CasparVSnyder_complaint.pdf

The couples


Glenna DeJong and Marsha Caspar, of Ingham County, who have been together for 27 years and were the first same-sex couple to get married in Michigan.


Clint McCormack and Bryan Reamer are currently caring for 13 children. While Clint says the couple didn’t expect to have such a large family, “we kept finding room in our hearts for more. Now we have a full, loving house with amazing children. I can’t imagine our life without them.”


Bianca Racine and Carrie Miller, of Oakland County, who have been together for three years. Bianca is in the National Guard; however Carrie will not be recognized as her spouse by the state Veterans Affairs agencies.


Martin Contreras and Keith Orr, of Washtenaw County, who have been together for 28 years, but worry about the state’s refusal to recognize their marriage on health benefits and state income taxes.


Samantha Wolf and Martha Rutledge, of Ingham County, who have been together for two years. Martha has ongoing health concerns stemming from a car accident. She would like to be covered on her wife’s health insurance.


Frank Colasonti, Jr. and James Barclay Ryder, of Oakland County, who have been together for 26 years. Frank would like to adjust his pension plan to provide Jim with continued survivor benefits and health care in the event of Frank’s death.


Kelly Callison and Anne Callison, of Washtenaw County, who have been together for five years and have a two-year-old son. They would like to jointly adopt their son.


James Anteau and Jared Haddock, of Oakland County, who have been together for 16 years. James would like Jared to be covered under his health insurance as his spouse.

To read more and view pictures of the families involved in this case, go to: http://www.aclumich.org/300Families

The lawsuit is separate from the original federal case challenging Michigan’s marriage ban, which is on appeal before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. That case was brought by private attorneys on behalf of an Oakland County lesbian couple – April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse – who have been together for more than a decade and are raising three adopted children. The ACLU of Michigan filed a friend-of-the-court brief in that case.

In the lawsuit filed today the couples are represented by Kari Moss, Jay Kaplan, Dan Korobkin, Michael J. Steinberg and Brooke Tucker of the ACLU of Michigan; John Knight of the National ACLU; and ACLU cooperating attorneys Andrew Nicklehoff of Sachs Waldman, PC, and Julian Mortenson, a University of Michigan law professor.

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Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.