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Gay couple trying to force state to recognize their marriage, “for our 13 kids”

Jake Neher

The ACLU of Michigan is suing the state to force it to recognize the marriages of about 300 same-sex couples who got married last month.

Clint McCormack and Bryan Reamer are one of eight couples named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed Monday.

McCormack and Reamer have ten adopted sons and three foster daughters they are raising together in Farmington Hills. They started taking in children in 1998, and McCormack says they only recently decided to stop at 13 kids.

“Brian and I are getting to the point now, it’s like, we’re thinking about retirement,” said McCormack, “and I don’t want to be changing diapers at 70. So, it’s like – no, this is it. This will be it.”

Other than having more a dozen kids with two adoptive dads, they say they’re a pretty normal family. McCormack and Reamer jointly adopted six of their children in New Jersey, which allows same-sex couples to do that.

But the rest were adopted in states – including Michigan – that do not allow same-sex couples to adopt children together. That means McCormick is not the legal parent of all the couple’s kids.

“God forbid, if something happened to Brian,” he said, “what happens to the four children? I’m not their legal parent. No one’s coming in my house and taking those children away. I’ll be in Canada, I’m too quick, before that happened, you know? (Laughs) No one’s going to keep my children away from me - over my dead body.”

A couple years ago, one of their oldest sons, Keegan, discovered that McCormack is not on his birth certificate. He says he had a tough time coping with the idea that only one of his dads was legally his dad.

“I was kind of upset at first, more mad,” said Keegan. “And then I got to the upset phase. Like, ‘How come they’re not allowed to do this?’ Obviously, they’ve been my parents my whole life, so it feels fitting that they should be both on it.”

Keegan’s experience was one of the reasons McCormack and Reamer decided to get married last month. Once they are recognized as legally married, they can start the process of jointly adopting the rest of their children, including their foster daughters. They say they don’t want them to have to go through what Keegan did.

When they found out a federal court judge had struck down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage last month, they were hesitant to run out to their county clerk’s office. They knew there was a good chance the ruling could be put on hold by an appeals court, putting their marriage status in limbo.

And that’s exactly what happened just hours after they made their vows.

Gov. Rick Snyder says the 300 some same-sex marriages performed on that Saturday were done legally. But he says the state cannot recognize them while the case is being appealed.

“We won’t recognize the benefits of that marriage until there’s a removal of the stay or there’s an upholding of the judge’s opinion by the Court of Appeals or a higher court,” said Snyder.

But ACLU Attorney Jay Kaplan says Snyder is “talking out of both sides of his mouth” by saying the marriages are legal, but that the state can’t recognize them.

“Governor Snyder’s hands were not tied as he has repeatedly stated,” Kaplan said. “All through this process he has had a choice, just like governors in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Virginia, who recognized marriage as a matter of fundamental freedoms, economic security, and family values.”

“Simply put,” said Kaplan, “once these couples were legally married in Michigan, they automatically gained the protections that cannot be taken away retroactively.”

The ACLU’s complaint says, “…Michigan had never retroactively imposed a marriage requirement to invalidate or ‘suspend’ recognition of an existing marriage that was legally performed in Michigan” prior to Snyder’s statement last month.

Kaplan says the group will do everything it can to expedite its lawsuit to force the state to recognize the marriages. Until then, the McCormick-Reamers and hundreds of other Michigan couples will have to wait and see if the state will view them as legal families.