Despite the Supreme Court's ruling Wednesday striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, Michigan will remain one of 36 states to have laws prohibiting gay marriage.
Michigan voters amended the state constitution in 2004 when a majority decided to legally define marriage as between a man and a woman, while also making same-sex marriages illegal and banning civil unions.
Bill Schuette opined shortly after the high federal court's decision Wednesday that Michigan law will not be impacted by the decision -- at least under the current constitution.
"The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states, not the federal government, retain the constitutional authority to define marriage," Schuette said in a statement. "Michigan's Constitution stands and the will of the people to define marriage as between one man and one woman endures in the Great Lakes State."
The Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down on a 5-4 ruling and made it unconstitutional for same-sex married couples to be denied benefits on the basis of their sexual orientation alone.
It is a decision that will no doubt re-ignite debates in the prohibiting states about what civil rights should be afforded to its residents.
"I was proud to sponsor legislation to recognize same sex marriages here in Michigan and now, with today's ruling from the Supreme Court, it's clear that it's time to move forward on that process to ensure that same sex couples have the same rights, opportunities and protections as everyone else in our state," said Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-Lansing, the ranking Democrat in the Michigan Senate.
Whitmer said she is "thrilled" with the Supreme Court's decision that is a "step forward for our nation and affirms the belief that love, not politics, should be the only factor that determines whether any two Americans choose to get married."
Retiring U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. called ruling a victory for equality and simple human dignity.
"I favored repeal of DOMA because it falls short of its ideal of equality under the law. The Supreme Court's recognition of that truth is in keeping with our best traditions and will give millions of Americans the legal protections to which they are fully entitled under our Constitution," Levin said. "I'm hopeful that our nation's centuries-long march toward equality will continue to move forward."
Opposition groups stood firmly in their positions against gay marriages.
"We will continue to promote the truth that marriage is and can only be the union of one man and one woman, and that children have the right to both a mother and father," the Michigan Catholic Conference said in a statement.
"Unless Congress exercises its Constitutional authority to ignore the court's opinion, American taxpayers will be forced to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars in increased federal spending to give spousal-type government benefits to the new category of beneficiaries the court thinks it has the power to force Congress to legally recognize. We hope Congress refuses," said Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association. "If not, this will be yet another instance in which tens of millions of Americans are forced to violate their conscience by subsidizing behavior they believe is immoral and wrong."
Regardless of how the decision plays out at the state level, members of the gay, lesbian and transgender community predominantly saw the ruling as a victory.
Gene Barfield and his partner Tim LaCroix, of Boyne City, became the first same-sex marriage in Michigan under the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians sovereign laws in March, after 30 years together.
Barfield said the ruling will likely put the burden on states to prove their actions are not discriminatory in the future, which is a vast shift in the legal positions states will be able to take.
"I think we saw a major sea change today," Barfield said.
Repealing the Michigan law banning gay marriage would take a constitutional amendment, which would mean a simple majority of state voter approval.
In 2004, state voters passed the ban on gay marriage with a 59 percent majority.
Michigan Democrats introduced legislation earlier this month that would repeal the language in the state constitution under a new proposal for 2014. However, getting the measure on the state ballot through the legislative process will prove an uphill climb without the Republican majority's support or a statewide petition drive.
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