LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan will recognize more than 300 same-sex marriages performed during a brief window when they were allowed last year, Gov. Rick Snyder announced Wednesday.
The Republican governor said he will not appeal a federal ruling last month that the state must recognize the marriages. U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith said the marriages are valid but put on hold his decision for 21 days pending any appeal by the state.
"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 in a statement.
Michigan's recognition of the marriages could affect the couples' health insurance coverage and their ability to jointly adopt.
A different federal judge struck down Michigan's 2004 voter-approved gay marriage ban on March 21. Same-sex couples in four counties married the next day, before an appeals court suspended the decision and blocked additional marriages.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided to consider the legality of bans in Michigan and three other states.
"I appreciate that the larger question will be addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court this year," Snyder said. "This is an issue that has been divisive across our country. ... I know there are strong feelings on both sides of this issue, and it's vitally important for an expedient resolution that will allow people in Michigan, as well as other states, to move forward together on the other challenges we face."
On Jan. 15, Goldsmith ruled that those who married "acquired a status that state officials may not ignore, absent some compelling interest."
Further, Goldsmith said the state showed no previous court decision approving an effort to impair the marital status of a couple who were lawfully married. Rather, he wrote, "there is a long history" of court decisions and laws rejecting the view that marital status "may be invalidated by a state after it was lawfully acquired under that state's law."
"In these circumstances, what the state has joined together, it may not put asunder," Goldsmith wrote.
On Tuesday, all 11 Democrats in the 38-seat Senate wrote a letter to Snyder urging him to not appeal.
"We stand united in supporting the rights of all loving couples to marry, and urge you to join us in doing the same," they said.
Snyder's decision was "a long time coming," Glenna DeJong told The Associated Press.
DeJong, 54, and Marsha Caspar, 53, of Lansing, were the first same-sex couple to marry in Michigan when they tied the knot at the Ingham County Courthouse in Mason on March 22.
Dejong said she and her spouse are now part of an exclusive club of same-sex married couples.
"But we aim to be members of an inclusive club that everyone can join. Our case was about the right to remain married. We were legally married. There are still thousands of couples across Michigan and the United States that still cannot get married," she said. "The fight certainly isn't over."
Associated Press writer Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this report.
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