Just Married: Same-sex couples wed across Michigan after historic ruling; court issues temporary stay until Wednesday
It took 26 years of waiting, but Frank Colasonti Jr. and James Ryder sealed the deal at 9:10 a.m. Saturday as the first same-sex couple to wed in Oakland County.
“We’re looking forward to growing old together with the same protections as every American,” Colosanti, 61, said in the moments following their first kiss as a married couple. Ryder, 48, said the pair met in church and it was “love at first sight.”
The couple arrived at Oakland County Circuit Court at 6 a.m. Saturday, after County Clerk Lisa Brown announced on Twitter late Friday night her office would be open today to issue marriage licenses.
Fighting back tears, Brown performed the ceremony inside a small room at the courthouse with a dozen onlookers grabbing tissues, snapping photos and cheering after Colasonti and Ryder said their vows.
“Today, the world is invited to celebrate a love that binds two people,” Brown said. As of noon Saturday, 560 people had entered the courthouse doors, with dozens of couples receiving instructions from county employees who were double checking they had the appropriate documents to receive a license.
The moment came just 16 hours came after U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman struck down the state’s 2004 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage Friday. His decision made Michigan the 18th state in the nation to recognize same-sex marriages.
The lawsuit that led to Friedman’s ruling began last year when two lesbian nurses, April Deboer and Jayne Rowse, challenged the state law that says only married couples and single people can adopt children.
The Hazel Park couple have cared for three special-needs toddlers since 2010. Rowse had legally adopted 4-year-old Nolan and 3-year-old Jacob; DeBoer adopted Ryanne, 3. But the couple realized they had no legal right to their partner’s children — in the worst case scenario, say, if Rowse unexpectedly died, DeBoer would likely lose custody of Nolan and Jacob. At Friedman’s urging, the couple expanded their case to challenge the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
In his 31-page opinion, Friedman lambasted the state’s defense of the ban, calling one expert witness’s testimony “entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration.” Attorney General Bill Schuette announced shortly after that he filed an emergency motion with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals requesting a stay.
Besides Oakland, county clerks in Muskegon, Ingham and Washtenaw counties beat Schuette to the punch and opened their doors Saturday to issue licenses.
Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum, who initially expected to open Monday, suddenly announced on Twitter early Saturday that she would begin issuing marriage licenses to couples at 8 a.m. Shortly after, Glenna DeJong, 53, and Marsha Caspar, 52, of Lansing, became the first same-sex couple to marry in the state.
“I’ve never seen her get up so fast, especially on a weekend,” DeJong told The Detroit News of Caspar. “We couldn’t wait and plan. We just had to act.”
But further plans for additional marriages had to temporarily be put on hold, as the 6th Circuit granted Schuette’s request for a temporary stay around 4:15 p.m. Saturday.
Saying it would “allow a more reasoned consideration of the motion to stay,” the court’s order suspends same-sex marriages in the state until Wednesday at the earliest. It’s unclear what the effect of the order is for couples married Saturday, but its likely the state won’t recognize their unions, pending the outcome of the appeals case.