Judge schedules hearing, disappoints same sex couples

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By Matthew Pizzo
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

For Stephanie Kirtz and Emily Kimmel, a day that began with hope ended in disappointment.

“We couldn’t sleep the night before,” Kirtz said. “It’s disheartening when the state where you live and call home for years doesn’t accept you and your lifestyle.”

They, like Same-sex couples across Michigan, lined up outside of county clerks’ offices Wednesday with the hope of marrying.

Instead, federal Judge Bernard Friedman announced Michigan’s constitutional ban on gay marriage would stay for now.

Gregory Varnum, director of external relations at Equality Michigan, said that Friedman announced there will be a trial Feb. 25.

Friedman will hear witnesses and gather more information so he can issue a written opinion, said Varnum.

Varnum said it would is that Friedman will issue his ruling; however, it is slightly more likely that he would take time to write the ruling rather than issue it that day.

“It would have been the very first time in Michigan’s history that same-sex couples could legally marry,” Varnum said. “Imagine being able to marry for the very first time in your life, that’s what thousands of couples were going to experience almost instantaneously.”

Kirtz said that she has been in a relationship for seven years and they are not discouraged by Friedman’s ruling.

“We’ve been fighting for it every day,” Kirtz said. “The judge didn’t say no, no way – we’re looking forward to February.”

Varnum said if Friedman lifted the ban from same-sex marriage and declined a legal stay, a suspension of an action or proceedings, county clerks would be able to grant same-sex marriage licenses in Michigan.

Equality Michigan posted instructions on its website for couples interested in marriage to take advantage of the potentially short window to wed.

Barb Byrum, Ingham County clerk, said that she had 20 couples in her office prepared to get married.

“I was very hopeful that the judge would pull the unconstitutional ban and there would be a window of opportunity, at a minimum, to join same-sex couples in marriage,” Byrum said. “It was a letdown but it’s not about if but rather when we will see equality in our state.”

Fifty-seven percent of people living in Michigan support marriage equality and it’s only a matter of time when majority of voters have a strong opinion like this, Varnum said.

“It is obvious that change is coming and it’s going to happen nationwide, worldwide,” Kirtz said.
“Acceptance is the new thing and people just have to jump on board with that.”

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