U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement Friday that the federal government will recognize the marriages of about 300 same-sex Michigan couples who hastily tied the knot after a federal judge declared Michigan’s 10-year ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.
“These families will be eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages,” Holder said, noting that Gov. Rick Snyder has made clear that the marriages that took place in four Michigan counties were lawful and valid, despite the state’s refusal to recognize them pending the outcome of an appeal on the ruling.
Same-sex marriage was legal for about 24 hours before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals placed a stay on the ruling at the request of Attorney General Bill Schuette, who said U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman’s ruling violated the will of Michigan voters who approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004.
Holder’s decision is consistent with one he made in January with respect to similarly situated 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,” he said.
Holder referenced United States v. Windsor, the case in which the Supreme Court struck down provisions of the Defense of Marrige, and said it “was a victory for equal protection under the law and a historic step toward equality for all American families.”
“ The Department of Justice continues to work with its federal partners to implement this decision across the government,” he said. “ And we will remain steadfast in our commitment to realizing our country’s founding ideals of equality, opportunity, and justice for all.”
Holder’s decision came after Democrats in Michigan’s congressional district on Thursday asked for clarification, at least in federal statutes, on where the legally married couples stood.
U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D- Flint, who was among those asking Holder to intervene, told the Detroit Free Press the recognition of the marriages is “welcome news” and he is hopeful that Snyder and Schutte will “drop their appeals and recognize the inherent rights of these Michiganders to love and marry one another.”
The Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest civil rights organization working for equality for LGBT citizens, issued a statement heralding the decision as an important step toward equality that upholds the values in the U.S. Constitution.“Last week 300 committed and loving same-sex couples were legally wed in Michigan,” the group said. “As such they deserve the recognition and treatment that all other married couples receive. Attorney General Eric Holder has once again demonstrated his steadfast commitment to equality and upholding the core values of the U.S. Constitution by affirming federal recognition of these marriages.”