Michigan will recognize approximately 300 same-sex marriages that took place during a brief window when they were allowed in the state last year, the state’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder announced on Wednesday.
The decision not to appeal a federal ruling that found those marriages valid comes as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear a challenge to Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban, along with challenges to similar bans in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. That case, to be argued in April, could yield an historic ruling that establishes a constitutional right for gay and lesbian couples to marry across the nation.
“Our nation's highest court will decide this issue,” Snyder said Wednesday in a statement. “I know there are strong feelings on both sides of this issue, and it's vitally important for an expedient resolution that will allow people in Michigan, as well as other states, to move forward together on the other challenges we face."
Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban was struck down in March, prompting hundreds of gay and lesbian couples to rush to the altar. But a week later, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Michigan, moved to indefinitely freeze that ruling until it considered the issue for itself. The appeals court later upheld Michigan’s ban.
Following the 6th Circuit’s decision, Michigan’s Republican officials said the same-sex marriages that took place in the state earlier that year were invalid. But a federal judge ruled last month that Michigan had to recognize those marriages, writing that “what the state has joined together, it may not put asunder.”
Gov. Snyder’s decision not to appeal that ruling means that roughly 300 same-sex couples who were married in the state last year will be eligible for full spousal benefits.
“The judge has determined that same-sex couples were legally married on that day, and we will follow the law and extend state marriage benefits to those couples,” said Snyder.