[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced on Friday that the federal government will recognize the same-sex marriages [statement] of Michigan couples. The statement is in accordance with Holder’s initial statement [text] that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will be extending all federal benefits to same-sex couples legally married according to state law following the decision in United States v. Windsor [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; JURIST report]. Same-sex couples were granted marriage rights in Michigan after a federal judge’s ruling [JURIST report] in DeBoer v. Michigan [materials] struck down [opinion, PDF] Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage. The state is currently appealing the decision, and Governor Rick Snyder [official website] has said the marriages will not be recognized while a stay put in place by the appeals court [JURIST report] is in effect. Holder said:
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.
This means that couples married between the lower court’s order and the stay put in place by the appeals court will not have to wait to receive federal recognition. The appeals court is expected to hear the case in a few months.
DeBoer v. Michigan began as a lawsuit to challenge a state law barring unmarried couples from adopting when April DeBoer and her partner Jayne Rowse sought to adopt three children they had been raising together. During arguments last year, Friedman suggested the plaintiffs amend their lawsuit to challenge Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban. Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] is one of the most hotly debated topics in the US legal community today. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed two lawsuits in March challenging same-sex marriage bans in Indiana and Florida [JURIST reports]. Earlier in March a judge for the US District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee [official website] granted a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] ordering the state of Tennessee to recognize same-sex marriages performed out-of-state until the lawsuit challenging the ban can be heard. A week prior, four couples filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in Wyoming state court challenging that state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Last year the US Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act [text; JURIST news archive] in US v. Windsor.