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UPDATE: Michigan will legally recognize 300 gay marriages performed last March

Update 2/4/2015:

And, it's now been made official: Governor Snyder says the state will recognize the more than 300 gay and lesbian marriages that were performed in Michigan last March. Snyder says his administration will not challenger a judge's order issued last month to recognize the marriages performed during the window when they were legal.

Original story 2/2/2015

Governor Snyder faces a deadline this week. A federal judge’s order that the state must recognize 300 gay marriages performed last March takes effect Thursday. That’s unless Snyder decides to appeal.

The issue of same-sex marriage has always been a conundrum for Snyder. It’s outside of his comfort zone.

For a numbers-minded CPA, social issues don’t move the needle on his almost laser-like focus on the economy.  It’s been evident in the variety of responses that he’s given on the issue, ranging from that he’s just – in his official capacity – defending the state constitution and the decision voters made on same-sex marriage 10 years ago to the stance that it’s not really his lawsuit, but rather, Attorney General Bill Schuette’s.

But even Schuette has changed his tune. He’s stopped saying he’s defending tradition marriage and instead, that it’s all about protecting voters.

Until last month, Governor Snyder’s position was that the marriages that took place last March were technically legal, but not recognizable by the state while the case is pending. That is, they have the same legal standing in the eyes of the state as refrigerator art.

But now we have this new ruling and the Governor shortly after responded, “If a federal judge has made a judgment, until that’s otherwise appealed changed, or modified, we’ll respect what a federal judge is saying.”

So, what will Snyder do?

Well, we have it on very good authority that the Governor intends to allow the deadline to pass with no appeal, unless there is something they find within the 50-page judge’s opinion that makes that impractical. And that means we could, for the first time in Michigan, have 300 legally recognized same-sex marriages by the end of the week.

Now, we should point out that the judge’s opinion applies only to the couples married last March. It doesn’t allow more same-sex marriages in Michigan and it doesn’t recognize marriages performed in other states. But it does allow Rick Snyder to begin setting his own legacy on this issue.

Snyder wants to be remembered as the governor who “re-invented Michigan,” presided over a resurgent economy, and welcomed immigrants. Not as the named defendant in a historic case defending a position he was never enthusiastic about it in the first place.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
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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