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Understanding how today's Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage could affect Michigan

Update 4:30 p.m.

Earlier this month, Michigan Radio's Lester Graham spoke with Kent and Diego Love-Ramirez - a gay couple in Michigan and the parents of two-year-old Lucas. The two were legally married in Washington D.C. last December, but they live in Michigan - a state that doesn't recognize their union:

"...it is very difficult for us to be in a two-parent family and not have that recognized."

We checked in with Kent Love-Ramirez to get his reaction to today's U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

"Having your federal government recognize your family, your family unit, your relationship, your parenting relationship on equal terms to say my sibling's family and relationship, is very validating and just a weight off your shoulders in terms of trying to protect your family unit," said Love-Ramirez. "It's really hard to put into words."

The U.S. Supreme Court rulings won't change the fact that the state of Michigan doesn't recognize their marriage, but Love-Ramirez says it certainly gives momentum for potential changes in the future - whether it's through a voter approved constitutional amendment, or a court ruling on the legality of Michigan's definition of marriage.

As Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette stated today, "Michigan’s Constitution stands and the will of the people to define marriage as between one man and one woman endures in the Great Lakes State."

Here's Love-Ramirez, in his own words, explaining some of the benefits they miss out on as a same-sex married couple - and what this day meant to his family:

12:43 p.m.

Michigan's Attorney General Bill Schuette released a Facebook post on today's ruling:

Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states, not the federal government, retain the constitutional authority to define marriage. Michigan’s Constitution stands and the will of the people to define marriage as between one man & one woman endures in the Great Lakes State.

11:39 a.m.

Melanie Kruvelis from the Michigan Radio Newsroom put together this Storify on reaction to today's rulings:

10:58 a.m.

This morning I posted three resources to help you understand the rulings before they were announced.

Now that the rulings have been announced, we can start analyzing what could happen next in Michigan.

Nothing helps us understand things better than a good visual.

The New Yorker has just that:A graphic that shows how states will be affected by today's U.S. Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage.

If you go to their graphic, and select what happened (DOMA was struck down, and California's Prop. 8 was dismissed on standing), you see that Michigan is gray.

So the state's law banning gay marriage still stands, but these state bans could be on shakier ground as they are challenged in court.

There's a challenge to Michigan's law taking place right now (read the section from the Detroit Free Press' Brian Dickerson below).

MPRN's Rick Pluta just sent us this update on how the ruling affects things here in Michigan:

The U.S. Supreme Court's decisions today on same-sex marriage laws do little to immediately change the landscape in Michigan. Federal employees and their same-sex partners who reside in Michigan could soon qualify for employment benefits if the Obama administration enacts some changes to federal rules. State employees in same-sex relationships who live together already qualify for domestic partner benefits -- although that could be a subject of collective bargaining this summer. The decisions have no immediate effect on the gay marriage ban in the state constitution that was approved by Michigan voters nine years ago. However, today's actions by the nation's highest court set the stage for further legal and political fights on gay rights. A federal judge in Detroit has promised a ruling very soon on marriage and adoption rights for gay and lesbian couples in Michigan. There is also a bill in the Legislature dealing with adoption rights. And gay rights groups are gearing up to put a question on the November 2016 ballot to challenge Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage.

8:44 a.m.

Supporters and opponents of gay marriage will be watching the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court closely today.

The court's decision on two gay marriage cases will be announced starting at 10 a.m. If you want to know what they decide, the "SCOTUSblog" is the place to watch. They'll begin live blogging there at 9 a.m.

And if you want some more background on the cases being decided today, Jess Bravin over at the Wall Street Journal puts these cases in context for us:

The rulings could give the final word on the law after years of battles—or leave the high court's views still murky. The court was set to rule on California's Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage and the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples.

How could the rulings affect Michigan's ban on gay marriage?

The court could decide that California's law prohibiting gay marriage, Proposition 8, is unconstitutional - and that ALL bans on same-sex marriage are as well. A clear ruling like that would strike down all state bans on gay marriage, including Michigan's law.

Most think the decision today will not have an immediate effect on other state laws.

Brian Dickerson at the Detroit Free Press writes that the decision today could give clarity to a court case challenging Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman is presiding over the case of April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse. The gay couple wants to marry and adopt each other's children. Michigan law prohibits that.

Dickerson writes that Friedman is highly skeptical of Michigan's law banning same-sex marriage. Today's ruling, Dickerson argues, could support his final decision expected this summer:

Friedman’s job would become that much easier if justices decide that restrictions on same-sex marriage should be subjected to heightened or strict scrutiny...There’s little doubt which way Friedman is leaning; we’ll know soon enough whether justices have left him sufficient daylight to follow where his legal instincts lead.

What the court could decide

To give more clarity to the law is the purpose of the "court of last resort." But as is always the case, the law can be murky - and legal decisions can leave more gray areas than light.

For a breakdown of all the potential decisions that could come today on gay marriage, the New York Times has put together this handy flowchart.

We'll have more for you today once the decisions are announced.

*This post is being updated.

Mark Brush was the station's Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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