Gay couples marry in Michigan after ban lifted

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Jenny Stanczyk, rear at left, and Cheryl Pine, rear at right, wait in line to apply for a marriage license at the Oakland County Clerks office with Maria , and Nina Stanczyk , front left and right, in Pontiac, Mich., Saturday, March 22, 2014. A federal judge has struck down Michigan’s ban on gay marriage Friday the latest in a series of decisions overturning similar laws across the U.S. Some counties plan to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples Saturday, less than 24 hours after a judge overturned Michigan’s ban on gay marriage. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Jenny Stanczyk, rear at left, and Cheryl Pine, rear at right, wait in line to apply for a marriage license at the Oakland County Clerks office with Maria , and Nina Stanczyk , front left and right, in Pontiac, Mich., Saturday, March 22, 2014. A federal judge has struck down Michigan’s ban on gay marriage Friday the latest in a series of decisions overturning similar laws across the U.S. Some counties plan to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples Saturday, less than 24 hours after a judge overturned Michigan’s ban on gay marriage. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

A same sex couple wait for a marriage license at the Oakland County Clerks office in Pontiac, Mich., Saturday, March 22, 2014. A federal judge has struck down Michigan’s ban on gay marriage Friday the latest in a series of decisions overturning similar laws across the U.S. Some counties plan to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples Saturday, less than 24 hours after a judge overturned Michigan’s ban on gay marriage. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Nasir Khawaja, left, and Mark Sarver stand outside in line to apply for a marriage license at the Oakland County Clerks office in Pontiac, Mich., Saturday, March 22, 2014. A federal judge has struck down Michigan’s ban on gay marriage Friday the latest in a series of decisions overturning similar laws across the U.S. Some counties plan to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples Saturday, less than 24 hours after a judge overturned Michigan’s ban on gay marriage. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Jayne Rowse, left, looks at April DeBoer as she reacts during a news conference in Ferndale, Mich., Friday, March 21, 2014. A federal judge struck down Michigan’s ban on gay marriage Friday, the latest in a series of decisions overturning similar laws across the U.S. The two nurses who’ve been partners for eight years claimed the ban violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Marsha Caspar, 51, left, and Glenna DeJong, 53, of Lansing sign documents on Saturday, March 22, before they were married at the Ingham County Courthouse in the central Michigan city of Mason by County Clerk Barb Byrum. The wedding came the day after the state’s ban on gay marriage was scratched from the state constitution by a federal judge. (AP Photo/Emma Fidel)

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MASON, Mich. (AP) — Dozens of gay Michigan couples rushed to recite vows one day after the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was lifted, even though their joy Saturday was tempered by fear that a higher court could set aside the judge’s ruling.

Glenna DeJong, 53, and Marsha Caspar, 51, of Lansing, were the first to arrive at the Ingham County Courthouse in the central Michigan city of Mason. DeJong and Caspar, who have been together for 27 years, received their license and were married by Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum.

“I figured in my lifetime it would happen,” Caspar said. “But now, when it happens now, it’s just overwhelming. I still can’t believe it. I don’t think it’s hit me yet.”

Similar nuptials followed one after another, at times en masse, in at least four of Michigan’s 83 counties. The couples’ haste was out of concern that Attorney General Bill Schuette’s request for a stay could be granted at any time, putting at least a temporary end to the ceremonies.

DeJong said that threat was all the encouragement they needed.

“Come Monday, we might not be able to do it, so we knew we had a short window of time,” she said.

Voters approved the gay marriage ban in a landslide in 2004. In Friday’s historic decision, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said the ballot box is no defense to a law that tramples the rights of same-sex couples.

It isn’t known when a federal appeals court in Cincinnati will respond to Schuette’s request. Schuette noted Friday that the U.S. Supreme Court in January suspended a similar decision that struck down Utah’s gay-marriage ban.

Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout said Saturday that the purpose of the stay would be preserving the state Constitution pending the appeal’s outcome. But she declined to comment on whether or if the state will recognize the new marriages in that scenario.

“The courts will have to sort it out,” she said.

After the U.S. Supreme Court intervened in Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert ordered state agencies to hold off on moving forward with any new benefits for the hundreds of same-sex couples who married during the three-week window until the courts resolved the issue. Agencies were told not to revoke anything already issued, such as a driver’s license with a new name, but were prohibited from approving any new marriages or benefits.

Utah made clear it was not ordering agencies to void the marriages, but that their validity would be decided by the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Anna Kirkland, a University of Michigan professor who submitted an expert report in the Michigan case, said people who have received licenses are “legally married” regardless of what state officials do.

“A ruling from a federal judge on the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause … is binding on the state government,” said Kirkland, a professor of women’s studies and political science. “It’s the law of the land until or unless the Supreme Court says otherwise.”

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia issue licenses for same-sex marriage.

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