Gay couples in Michigan disappointed in Gov. Snyder’s decision

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By Daniel Hamburg
Mason Times staff writer

Gov. Rick Snyder announced Wednesday that more than 300 marriages of same-sex couples on Saturday were performed legally by county clerks across the state of Michigan, but will not be recognized for benefits by the state until the case is resolved by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said she performed the first of 57 same-sex marriage ceremonies a couple of minutes after 8 o’clock on Saturday morning. She also said five officiants showed up to help perform marriages, including East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett.

“It was an absolutely amazing experience,” Byrum said. This entire courthouse was loud. We had kids everywhere, families everywhere, tears of joy were just a flowing.”

Joe Bissell and his partner Justin Maynard were wed by Byrum, shortly after 9 a.m. After seeing on Facebook that Byrum opened the courthouse early on Saturday, he picked up his partner of 15 years, Justin Maynard, at work and drove over.

“We never talked about it,” Bissell said. “The instant I realized that for the first time ever it was possible, and knowing that it might be a while before we’d have the chance to do it again, knowing that a stay would be issued most likely, I was immediately like, ‘we’ve got to get married.’ There’s no question. I knew we needed to do it.”

However, Gov. Snyder’s announcement Wednesday came as a disappointment to many. Despite last Friday’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman deeming the state’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional, Attorney General Bill Schuette’s request for a stay was granted. That means hundreds of couples won’t be able to get married, or receive state benefits until the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reviews the case.

After being together 6 and a half years, Jen Loforese and Jean Baker were also among those in Ingham County to get married before the stay took effect. Loforese said she and her wife are excited to be married, but upset for those who didn’t have the opportunity to wed on Saturday.

“It’s difficult. It’s hard to celebrate, especially because if you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, you have lots of friends that are within the community,” Loforese said.“Of course they’re happy for you, but they’re sad for themselves if it’s somebody who wanted to marry and couldn’t.”

While many newlyweds try to stay optimistic for the future, Byrum is taking action through an online “petition to encourage the attorney general and governor of our state to stop spending our taxpayer dollars on a case they’re not going to win,” she said.

Bissell said he and his husband aren’t letting the stay get them down or take away from the joy they’ve experienced the past few days.

“It’s an inconvenience. It definitely pissed me off, but I’m not surprised,” Bissell said. “One of my friends just told me yesterday, she said ‘We’re changing history, and that takes time.’ I just keep reminding myself that – In the end, we’re going to prevail.”

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