As you know from our recent coverage, Judge Bernard A. Friedman of the Eastern District of Michigan entered an order late in the day on Friday, March 21, 2014 striking down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage as violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. SeeJudgment, DeBoer, et al. v. Snyder, et al., Case No. 12-cv-10285 (E.D. Mich.). By the evening of March 21, Michigan’s Governor and Attorney General already had filed an emergency motion with the Sixth Circuit asking the Court, pursuant to Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, to stay Judge Friedman’s opinion and order pending appeal to the Sixth Circuit. See Emergency Motion (PDF).
It did not take the Sixth Circuit long to act on the emergency motion. By Saturday, the Sixth Circuit had entered an order temporarily staying Judge Friedman’s order. See Order, DeBoer, et al. v. Snyder, et al., Case No. 14-1341 (6th Cir.). The Sixth Circuit later extended the stay of Judge Friedman’s order until final disposition of Michigan’s appeal. See Order, DeBoer, et al. v. Snyder, et al., Case No. 14-1341 (6th Cir.). That means that gay marriages will not go forward in Michigan for at least the near future while the Sixth Circuit considers the parties’ legal arguments.
Only one problem. Before the Sixth Circuit could issue its Saturday order staying Judge Friedman’s ruling from the prior afternoon, 321 same-sex marriage licenses were issued in four Michigan counties, and approximately 300 same-sex marriages were performed. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has issued a formal statement saying that the rights tied to these 300 same-sex marriages will be suspended until either the Sixth Circuit’s stay is lifted or until Judge Friedman’s decision is upheld on appeal. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, however, has stated that the Michigan marriages would be recognized and all relevant federal benefits would be extended.
The speed at which this case has moved illustrates practical problems attendant with stay practice at the appellate level. Even though the Sixth Circuit acted expeditiously (even on a weekend), the gap between the district court ruling and the stay creates uncertainty for a number of people. It will remain to be seen (with the duel state/federal battles potentially impacting these individuals) how or whether the Sixth Circuit’s ultimate ruling will address these affected individuals.