Michigan still waiting on same-sex marriage decision from the 6th Circuit

Oct 7, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear seven same-sex marriage cases. And that leaves the fate of Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban with the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

A decision from the Sixth Circuit could come at any time. The case was argued in August. Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee are also waiting on the ruling. A decision to uphold same-sex marriage bans in those states and Michigan would create a conflict between different circuits that could land the case before the Supreme Court.

“Usually, if the Supreme Court takes a case, they look to see if there’s a split among the circuit court of appeals, and, certainly, this would be one that they would say, you know, we have a discrepancy here, and maybe it’s time for us to intervene on this issue of marriage equality,” said Jay Kaplan, an attorney with the ACLU’s gay and lesbian rights project.

But a decision by the Sixth Circuit to strike down same-sex marriage bans would continue a trend among other courts. The Supreme Court might be content, then, to allow lower courts to develop a nationwide legal consensus.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg told a Minneapolis audience last month to keep an eye on the Sixth Circuit and how it decides its same-sex marriage cases.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said through a spokeswoman that he’s also waiting on the decision.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has chosen not to review marriage cases in other circuits at this time,” said Joy Yearout.  “Michigan joins Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky in awaiting a decision by the Sixth Circuit in our pending cases, which we expect will be resolved soon.”

The Supreme Court’s decision to let stand lower court decisions striking down same-sex marriage bans will allow same-sex marriages in 30 states – including Indiana and Wisconsin.

“And I think it should be noted that Michigan will now be in the minority, in the minority of states that currently allow same-sex couples to get married,” said Kaplan.

There are also separate federal lawsuits calling on Michigan to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states that allow it, and to recognize same-marriages performed in a brief window when it was legal in Michigan.