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Same-sex couples flock to clerks' offices to wed ahead of temporary stay

Update 5:05 p.m.

In a reversal from what it signaled earlier in the day, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a temporary stay on the decision to strike down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage. 

The court said it issued the stay to allow a "more reasoned consideration" of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's request for a hold on Friday's decision.

3:43 p.m.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will not issue a stay this weekend on the decision to strike down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage, and weddings will be allowed to continue until at least noon Tuesday. That's the deadline for the plaintiffs to respond to Attorney General Bill Schuette's request for a stay.

2:30 p.m.

Oakland County couples take advantage of weekend wedding opportunity

Oakland County clerk Lisa Brown says her office issued 142 marriage licenses to same-sex couples who took advantage of their chance to get married today.

Gay couples looking to do just that lined the length of the clerk's office hallway this morning. The cheerful hubbub was punctuated by occasional cheers, as newly-married couples made their way back and out of the building.

Most of the couples said they had been together for years – in some cases, for decades.

Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Catherine and Laura Quinn of Royal Oak were one of the first Oakland County couples to marry. It also happened to be their 18th anniversary. Catherine Quinn said she hopes getting married right away will let the marriage be "acknowledged...we don't want to have to wait for months or years of appeals."

Sarah Halson waited in line with Kim, her partner of 14 years. The couple has a five-year-old daughter, and Halson says it's a relief their family will now have the same legal rights and protections as any other.

Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, the lesbian couple whose lawsuit brought down the gay marriage ban, had originally sued for the right to jointly adopt the three children they're raising together. Michigan law bars unmarried couples from joint adoptions.

Halson got choked up as she talked about how her daughter will finally get to have two legal parents.

“That part of it – for Kim to be able to adopt our daughter – will be even more emotional for me, I think," Halson said. "We're just thrilled and shocked and excited, and so happy with how many people are happy for us. The love is just amazing.”

The couples were well aware that getting married right away may put their marriage in a kind of legal limbo. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is trying to have Judge Bernard Friedman’s ruling stayed, as he looks to take the case to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Stephen Hollowell and his partner said they wanted to capitalize on a legal precedent from some similar cases – that weddings performed during the period of legal uncertainty would be recognized and “grandfathered” in, allowing them immediate access to federal and employer benefits. They also hoped a tide of same-sex weddings would push the case through the legal system faster.

But mostly, Hollowell said the couple wanted to marry because they’re in love.

“We’ve been together for 22 years, and we’ve made it,” Hollowell said. “We’ve showed our love for each other, and now we want to make it legal.”

Hollowell said he’d been “smiling and smiling” since he heard about ban being struck down Friday.

“This is the most exciting thing ever,” he said, with another broad smile. “Finally we feel…” – he paused – “…we feel equal.”

12:36 p.m.

Meet a few more couples getting married today

Sharonda Purnell and Carla Huff, together five years 

Credit Kate Wells
Carla Huff, left, and her partner Sharonda Purnell. Their son is with them to celebrate their soon-to-be legal marriage.

Hear Purnell and Huff tell their story:

It's a bittersweet day for SharondaPurnell. 

She and her partner, Carla Huff, had a ceremony three years ago in Michigan.

It wasn't legally recognized by the state, but Purnell says at least she got to feel like a real bride that day. 

"Our original wedding was when I got my wedding dress, you know, when I was all dolled up and beautiful.

And you know, I had less than 12 hours to get ready now! Probably for someone who's straight, they've never had to deal with this rush. So it's bittersweet."

After they're married in the Washtenaw County courthouse, they've got to take their son Treay on a field trip.

"Yeah, life goes on!" Purnell says, laughing. 

As for what the biggest changes will be once the couple is legally married, Purnell says it's a new sense of security. 

"And I can get half if she decides to screw up," she says, laughing. 

Her partner, Carla Huff, says she's hoping Purnell will take her name now. 

Purnell is not so sure. "Mine just sounds better, you know?"

Huff smiles. "But I  asked first!" 

Huff says after today, their lives will get a little easier, from getting insurance to filing taxes.

"All the legalese is what we were missing. So now they can't say no anymore!" 

Anthony Shakeshaft and Thomas Toon, together 22 years 


Credit Kate Wells
Just moments after signing their marriage certificate, Toon and Shakeshaft talk to reporters.

Shakeshaft talks about marrying his long-time partner today:

"You know I love Michigan," says Shakeshaft, who's from England. "But it feels like America should feel now," he says moments after marrying Toon. 

Toon and Shakeshaft have raised a daughter together, Nadia. She was born to Shakeshaft's sister, he says, who died 20 years ago today.

"And it's her anniversary to the day she died today. So I know that's why it's emotional as well." 

Jeanne Mackey and Pattie Postel, together 27 years 

Waiting to get their license in the packed Washtenaw County Courthouse, Mackey and Postel break into their own version of "Chapel of Love":

"I'm feeling really choked up," Mackey says through tears. "And really happy. Like, it's about time!"

Postel says it hasn't really hit her yet. 

"In some ways, it doesn't quite feel real," she says. 

"I was saying on the way over, every time I fill out my tax forms, I cross out 'single' and write 'domestic partnership.' And I've been doing that for 10 years as kind of a quiet protest. Like, next year, we get to check married! We can even file jointly if we want!"  

12:02 p.m.

Dozens of couples line up to wed at small Muskegon church

Muskegon residents Jere Clausen and Bruce Walters have been together for 14 years. Saturday morning they stepped up to the altar and made their marriage official.

“To really be able to profess my love for Bruce in front of my loved ones and to have before God professed that and swore that, it’s different. It is different,” Clausen said.

Clausen’s sister, Kim May, signed as a witness on the marriage certificate.

“They’ve been waiting a long time. That’s all they ever talk about. They go to so many wedding ceremonies and participate and it’s what they long for and dreamed about,” May said, tears coming down her cheeks. “I’m so happy for them and Bruce he’s amazing, we love him.”

The pair was among dozens of same-sex couples lined up this morning in a small church in Muskegon to get married after yesterday’s federal court ruling.

"We're going to go about loving and living as we always have no matter what..."

Neither said they were too worried about the emergency appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. “We’re going to go about loving and living as we always have no matter what the paper says. I mean hopefully for our family and security reasons, hopefully it will stand,” Walters said.

Rev. Bill Freeman called it a day for love and justice. He was more emotional during the first ceremony than Clausen and Walters. Freeman recently went to jail for protesting the city of Holland’s rejection of local laws that would’ve protected gay and transgender people against discrimination in housing and employment.

The marriages started around 9:45 a.m. At this time there are still at least another 20 couples waiting in line to go through the process.

Original post 9:30 a.m.

Michigan's first same-sex weddings happen in Ingham County

The first legally recognized same-sex wedding in Michigan was performed shortly after 8 a.m. at the Ingham County courthouse in Mason.

Clerks in Oakland, Washtenaw, and Muskegon say they are open today at 9 a.m. to issues licenses after yesterday’s historic ruling that struck down Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban.

"I now pronounce you married."

“By the authority invested in me by the great state of Michigan, I now pronounced you married…” said a teary-eyed Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum.

Glenna DeJong and her new wife, Marsha Caspar, laughed, cried, and hugged as they became the state’s first legally wed same-sex couple.

DeJong says she and Caspar have been waiting 27 years to be married.

A federal judge ruled yesterday that Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban violates equal protection rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette still hopes the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will put a hold on that ruling.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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