Washtenaw County Clerk Monitoring Marriage Equality Cases

Aug 26, 2014

In courtrooms from Cincinnati to Detroit the issue of marriage equality is being decided.  Still, it is likely that the U-S Supreme Court will have the final say.  No matter the decisions along the way, Washtenaw County will be prepared.

The first same-sex marriage in Washtenaw County.
Credit Andrew Cluley / 89.1 WEMU

Washtenaw County Clerk Larry Kestenbaum was among four in the state to open early to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It was legal for only a brief period on that weekend day in March. That's how quickly the court decisions can come and go. On the Friday, Detroit Federal Judge Bernard Friedman struck down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage. Saturday morning dozens were married and before the day was out, an appeals court had issued a stay putting a halt to the weddings. 

In all some, 300-couples were married before the stay was issued. The Federal government recognizes those marriages as legal. Michigan does not. The issue of whether Michigan should be forced to grant married benefits to those couples is being decided in a federal court in Detroit.

Meantime, State Attorney General Bill Schuette is awaiting a decision from the 6th U-S Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on the ruling striking down the state ban on same-sex marriage.

Kestenbaum says if a court order changes that for even a short time, his office is ready. "On that one day in March we did 74 and we had more waiting.  We probably could have done maybe another 20 or 30.  I'm sure that regardless of what comes we can handle it," Kestenbaum says.

He doesn't think that will be necessary, though. Kestenbaum suspects the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will put an immediate stay on any decision it makes in the coming months, and that would prevent another slew of same-sex marriages.

Like most others, Kestenbaum says the issue will likely have to be decided by the U-S Supreme Court in its next term.

Like 89.1 WEMU on Facebook and follow us on Twitter— Andrew Cluley is the Ann Arbor beat reporter, and anchor for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him acluley@emich.edu.