Michigan to Recognize 300 Gay Marriages
By Tresa Baldas
In 1993, Lisa Bashert's partner proposed to her by phone, popping the question while she was at work.
More than two decades later, Bashert would learn her nuptials were valid -- this time by text.
At 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, Bashert received this text message from her partner of 26 years: "Snyder just recognized our marriage."
The text from Beth Bashert was referring to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who announced Wednesday that Michigan will recognize more than 300 same-sex marriages that were performed during a brief window of opportunity last year.
Lisa Bashert, 57, and Beth Bashert, 54, of Ypsilanti were among those couples as they officially tied the knot in a ceremony that included a rabbi, chuppah, 80 guests and a cake with roses. They had had a commitment ceremony years before, but this was the real deal: a wedding, in their home state, and it was legal.
"I don't know what to do. I'm just speechless," Lisa Bashert said, noting the gay-marriage issue has been a decisive one in Michigan. "It's just been so up and down, up and down ... and after so many ups and downs it's hard to have an emotional reaction. It's hard to really let it into my heart."
It's also not the end of the real struggle: to legalize gay marriage for everyone, "not just the 300 of us who happened to have the opportunity on that day last year," Bashert said, adding she is relieved that Snyder acted as he did.
In a boost to the escalating gay-marriage movement -- it's legal now in 36 states -- Snyder said he will not appeal U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith's ruling last month that Michigan must recognize 300 same-sex marriages that were performed last March. The marriages were performed after another federal judge -- U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman -- overturned Michigan's voter-approved same-sex marriage ban on constitutional grounds.
That decision got overturned on appeal and is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which will ultimately decide the gay-marriage issue. The State of Michigan had long argued that it would not recognize the 300 same-sex marriages that were performed last March pending appeals. But Goldsmith said the state had to because, he held, the marriages are valid.
"The judge has determined that same-sex couples were legally married on that day, and we will follow the law and extend state marriage benefits to those couples," Snyder said.
State Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, one of the co-authors of the 2004 constitutional amendment that banned gay marriage in Michigan, said he was disappointed with Snyder's decision.
"I think it's a sad commentary on the state of the modern judiciary when something that is the subject of law is illegal one day, then for 12 hours it's supposedly legal, then it's illegal again," Glenn said. "I think that kind of confusion breeds disrespect for the law."
Glenn said he believes Michigan voters, not judges, should be allowed to decide if same-sex marriage is a good idea or not. He said he supports the will of the 2.7 million voters who decided in 2004 that marriage in Michigan should be defined only as a union between one woman and one man.
"My duty is to the state Constitution and to the people of Michigan, regardless of what one federal judge says," Glenn said, adding: "I'm disappointed with the decision that the governor made."
Snyder's decision stems from a lawsuit that was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan last year on behalf of eight same-sex couples who wed immediately after the state ban on gay marriage was overturned. Their marriages were in limbo as the state had refused to recognize them, until now.
"We're thankful that the state finally has made the wise choice to acknowledge the vows that these couples made and to recognize the love that these families share," said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan's LGBT Project. " ... We're elated that, with the recognition of their marriages, these couples no longer have to live under a dark cloud of confusion and uncertainty."
State Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, who is one of two publicly gay men in the Legislature this year, echoed that sentiment, noting he was a witness at the wedding of two friends who were among the 300 same-sex couples married last March.
"Their long-term commitment to one another is no different than any other marriage recognized by the state," said Moss, who both commended Snyder for recognizing the 300 marriages and criticized him for supporting the gay-marriage ban to begin with.
So did Oakland Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown, who has long been a vocal opponent of Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage, which was approved by Michigan voters in 2004.
"While I'm thrilled that Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette are respecting the decision that the marriages performed on March 22 last year must be recognized, I wish they would have done the same with Judge Friedman's decision on same-sex marriage," said Brown, adding the state is "continuing to waste taxpayer dollars to discriminate against those who were not fortunate enough to get married during that small window."
As for the same-sex marriages that have been validated, Brown said: "It's a shame that it took nearly a year ... The important thing is to not give up the fight."
Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum applauded Snyder for his decision, stating: "Love has won today ... This is a critical step forward in our fight to secure the freedom to marry for all Michiganders."
(c)2015 the Detroit Free Press