Federal government will respect marriages of same-sex couples in Michigan

Today, the United States Department of Justice announced that the federal government will respect the legal marriages of the 300+ same-sex couples in Michigan who were issued marriage licenses in the state on Saturday, March 22. 

Attorney General Holder announced:

I have determined that the same-sex marriages performed last Saturday in Michigan will be recognized by the federal government. 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. 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.

The announcement comes in response to a federal judge's ruling in DeBoer v. Snyder on Friday, March 21 that struck down anti-marriage laws in Michigan. The judge, a Reagan appointee, did not issue a stay in the decision, and several Michigan counties announced they would open the following day in order to issue marriage licenses. More than 300 couples married before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the state's request for a stay in the ruling. The decision has been put on hold pending the state's appeal in the case, and the state has said that it will not respect the marriage licenses for state purposes as the appeal continues. 

Attorney General Holder's response is similar to the Department of Justice's action on the nearly 1,300 marriage licenses issued in Utah earlier this year. Those couples, too, are eligible for all federal protections and responsibilities that different-sex couples receive. 

Freedom to Marry's founder and president Evan Wolfson responded to AG Holder's announcement today. He said:

The 300 loving couples in Michigan are as married as any couple on the planet. The Attorney General's decision today respects the legality - and the dignity - of their marriages. It's time for Michigan and other discriminating states to do right by all families, and get themselves on the right side of history.

Learn more about DeBoer v. Snyder, and the freedom to marry in Michigan