BY AJ TRAGER
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a supplemental brief Nov. 14 in the Caspar v Snyder case, claiming that the Nov. 6 decision by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals renders the roughly 300 same-sex marriages performed in March of this year void.
In a 2-1 decision, the 6th Circuit ruled Nov. 6 that same-sex marriage bans do not violate the U.S. Constitution. The circuit court upheld the Michigan Marriage Amendment, a 2004 voter approved same-sex marriage ban. While the plaintiff couple, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, have now appealed their case to the Supreme Court of the United States, the 6th Circuit decision, according to Schuette, has rendered the Caspar marriage, and therefore hundreds of other same-sex marriages performed in the state, invalid.
“He may think he has the power to void them. And really that is what our lawsuit is about,” said Keith Orr, co-owner of /aut/Bar in Ann Arbor, who with his partner Martin Contreras is one of the eight couples listed in the Caspar case.
“In my personal opinion, nothing has been voided. This is an overreach on his part. So now we just have to wait and see what Judge Goldsmith has to say and hopefully that will happen shortly.”
Marsha Caspar and Glenna DeJong were the first couple married after the DeBoer decision in March. They, along with seven other couples, are suing for their marriages to be legally recognized under state law. Caspar v Snyder is currently pending a decision from Federal Judge Mark A. Goldsmith, of the Eastern District of Michigan, on whether or not the 300 couples are legally married in the state.
“The claim is simple. The merits are clear. The harm is profound,” ACLU of Michigan Cooperating Attorney and University of Michigan Constitutional law professor, Julian Mortenson, said to Judge Goldsmith when he heard arguments in August. “The state cannot mandatorily divorce you.” He is representing eight same-sex couples.
Attorney General Bill Schuette, who was first elected in 2011, wrote towards the invalidation of those couples’ legal devotion for one another.
In his brief, Schuette writes, “In fact, Plaintiffs’ argument for recognition of their marriages is more tenuous than the arguments set forth in the companion cases to DeBoer because Plaintiffs’ marriages were never sanctioned by the public policy of any State. Instead, the marriages occurred when the district court incorrectly invalidated Michigan’s public policy.”
“He isn’t arguing anything differently than he has argued in the past,” Frank Colasonti, a plaintiff in the Caspar v Snyder case, said. “The language is way stronger in terms of creating a situation where the 300 couples are null and void. I am certainly angry by the big push to do this as is Jim, my husband, and we are going to take the next step.”
Thirty-two states including the District of Columbia legally support same-sex marriage. With over half of the country validating the love and devotion of same-sex couples with a legal document granting them the full rights of their heterosexual counterparts, many believe it is only a matter of time before the Supreme Court of the United States determines states’ bans on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.
Schuette reiterates the state government’s opinion that recognition of the 300 marriages would go against Michigan’s sovereign interest in the definition of marriage set forth by the Michigan Marriage Amendment, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Schuette then goes on to say that the “marriages cannot be recognized for any purposes, and the benefits the plaintiffs seek cannot be provided.”
“This comes with the backdrop of the governor, even after the DeBoer decision of the 6th Appellate, saying that the state doesn’t have to recognize them,” Orr said.
Jay Kaplan, LGBT project attorney for the ACLU who is helping to represent the plaintiffs in Caspar, said that the DeBoer case should not have any bearing with the Caspar case. They are about two different things: the right to get married and the right to be legally recognized and stay married.
“(In) our case, these people are married, they’re legally married in the state of Michigan. That was the law; they have legal marriage certificates,” Kaplan said. “The federal government recognizes their marriages and is (granting) them full benefits, and the state should do the same.”