U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Friday that the federal government will recognize the 300 same-sex marriages performed in Michigan following the recent ruling that struck down the state ban on gay marriage. The announcement comes shortly after state Gov. Rick Snyder said the same-sex nuptials would not be recognized at a state level.
Holder said in a statement posted on the Department of Justice website that he will be recognizing the marriages performed last weekend in the state, adding that these married same-sex couples will be eligible for federal benefits.
The move follows a similar decision made in January, when the Obama administration said it would recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah from Dec. 20 to Jan. 6, before a stay was granted in a court ruling that struck down the state's gay marriage ban.
In his announcement, Holder referenced the June 2013 Supreme Court ruling that struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, thus awarding federal benefits to same-sex couples. "Last June's decision by the Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor was a victory for equal protection under the law and a historic step toward equality for all American families."
"The Department of Justice continues to work with its federal partners to implement this decision across the government. And we will remain steadfast in our commitment to realizing our country's founding ideals of equality, opportunity, and justice for all."
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman had ruled last weekend that Michigan's ban on gay marriage – which was approved by 59 percent of voters in 2004 – was unconstitutional. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit granted a temporary stay a day later. But in that short period of time, 300 marriage licenses were granted to same-sex couples.
Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, told reporters on Wednesday that the gay marriages performed would not be recognized by the state, saying that although they were "legal" when they were performed, the state must still respect the stay granted against Friedman's ruling.
"What we have here is a situation where legal marriages took place Saturday," Snyder said, "but because of the stay, the operation of law is such that we won't recognize the benefits of those marriages until there is a removal of the stay or there is an upholding of the judge's opinion by the Court of Appeals or a higher court."
Brian Brown, president for the National Organization for Marriage, has spoken out against Friedman's ruling ,calling it "an all-out assault on marriage, issuing rulings to redefine this foundational institution in violation of U.S. Supreme Court precedent and the rule of law."
Catholic bishops from seven dioceses in the state also issued a collective statement on the Michigan Catholic Conference website, calling Friedman's ruling "most regrettable."
Friedman's ruling "strikes at the very essence of family, community and human nature. In effect, this decision advances a misunderstanding of marriage, and mistakenly proposes that marriage is an emotional arrangement that can simply be redefined to accommodate the dictates of culture and the wants of adults," the conference argued.
Michigan will now go through the appeals process in the Sixth Circuit in an attempt to overturn Friedman's ruling and keep its ban on gay marriage. Several other states are going through similar appeals processes.