Stay blocking Michigan same-sex marriages extended pending appeal

Tue Mar 25, 2014 6:58pm EDT

A gay couple holds hands during a rally in support of the United States Supreme Court decision on marriage rights in San Diego, California June 26, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake

A gay couple holds hands during a rally in support of the United States Supreme Court decision on marriage rights in San Diego, California June 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake

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(Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court panel extended a temporary hold on Tuesday on a federal judge's ruling that struck down a Michigan ban on gay nuptials, blocking the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples pending an appeal.

A federal judge in Detroit struck down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage on Friday, and county clerks issued more than 300 marriage licenses to gay couples on Saturday before the appeals court temporarily stopped the judge's decision from taking effect.

The appeals court cited the U.S. Supreme Court's granting of a stay after a federal judge last year overturned Utah's ban on gay weddings. Clerks immediately began issuing marriage licenses while Utah's attorney general appealed the ruling.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled that the Michigan ban on same-sex marriage approved by voters in 2004 as a state constitutional amendment breached the equal protection rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Governor Rick Snyder filed an immediate notice that they planned to appeal the decision and asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to put the ruling on hold pending a review.

Attorneys for the lesbian couple who challenged the law had asked the appeals court to deny a stay, arguing in part that the state defendants "have not established and cannot establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their appeal."

With the temporary stay granted, same-sex couples married in Michigan on Saturday could find themselves in legal limbo.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Jon Herskovitz and Bernard Orr)

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