March 28, 2014
Regardless of one’s underlying position on what state marriage policy should be, most Americans agree that establishing that policy should be a process rooted in legal and democratic means. Yet, for all the present Administration’s blustering about respect and tolerance for a diversity of viewpoints on marriage, very little of that respect has been extended to existing state policy on marriage or the process by which those views have been enshrined in law.
In the latest move to ignore state marriage law, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced it will recognize the relationships of Michigan same-sex couples who obtained marriage licenses in the period between a federal District Court ruling striking down the state’s marriage amendment on March 21st and an emergency stay of the ruling issued by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on March 22nd. In the Saturday morning hours between District Judge Bernard Friedman’s Friday night ruling and the subsequent Saturday afternoon stay, several hundred couples were “wed.”
Given the murky legal status of these marriages, Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder has said the state will not recognize the unions while the state continues its appeal of the District Court ruling at the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has explained repeatedly that his job, regardless of his personal beliefs, is to defend the will of the 2.7 million Michigan voters who voted in 2004 to affirm marriage as the institution it has always been understood to be: the union of one man and one woman.
That deference to the people and the law, unfortunately, has not been replicated by Attorney General Schuette’s federal counterpart. Today’s statement from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder instead underscores the willingness of the federal government to ignore the will of voters, state law, and the limits of last summer’s Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor. Indeed, Windsor required respect for state policies on marriage -- not a new federal mandate for Administratively-imposed same-sex marriage recognition.