Washtenaw County's First Legal Same Sex Marriages Take Place

Mar 22, 2014


By Patrik Holubik

The US 6th Circuit of Appeals has issued a stay until Wednesday on the decision to strike down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage.  


Washtenaw County’s first legal same sex marriages took place this morning.  County Clerk Larry Kestenbaum opened his office at nine this morning for a line of same sex couples stretching down the street hoping to get married.

Finishing up the paperwork on the wedding of Elizabeth Patten and Johnnie Terry. Washtenaw County's first same sex marriage.
Credit Andrew Cluley / 89.1 WEMU

Like most of the couples it’s been a long wait for Dana Bauer and Tracy Pennington.  The couple has been together for 13 years and had a commitment ceremony about a year ago.  They were thrilled to finally be able to legally marry.

With up to 60 couples expected to get married more than a dozen wedding officiants were on hand.  Ted VanRoekel was ordained in 2001 as a minister in the Universal Life Church and his dream has been to be able to legally wed same sex couples.  VanRoekel says he had enough papers to marry all 60 couples if need be, and was ready to do the ceremonies in the street if need be.  Instead the county allowed ceremonies to take place in the basement below the clerk’s office.

Ministers and other wedding officials wait for couples to arrive with marriage licenses.
Credit Andrew Cluley / 89.1 WEMU

The decision to open the clerks office on a Saturday came after a federal judge ruled late Friday that Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriages violates the equal protection rights guaranteed by the U-S Constitution.  County Commissioner Andy LaBarre commends the county staff for acting quickly.  LaBarre prefers the couples have the legal documents saying they are married as they wait on any further court action.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette requested a stay from the U-S sixth Circuit Court of Appeals but no action was taken before same sex marriages started taking place in several Michigan counties.

Same sex couples and their supporters wait for the Washtenaw County Clerk's office to open.
Credit Andrew Cluley / 89.1 WEMU

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— 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.