By Chris Gray
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer
The Ingham County board of commissioners had a 40-item agenda for their March 25 meeting that included a resolution calling on the state of Michigan and its attorney general to recognize the same-sex marriages performed in the county over the weekend.
On March 21, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled that Michigan’s voter-approved 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. At the time, Bernard’s ruling briefly allowed same-sex weddings. County Clerk Barb Byrum opened her office to wed same-sex couples on Saturday but was unable to continue during the week because a stay was issued a short time later – meaning the ban was back in effect.
Byrum took advantage of the public comment period during the meeting to discuss how Saturday’s opening of the County Courthouse became possible. Byrum said all but one employee was able to work on Saturday, which allowed her to issue marriage licenses before Monday, the next official business day.
“I couldn’t sleep that Friday night knowing that I would be making so many couples who have waited decades to marry their partner wait two more days,” Byrum said.
In addition to 57 same-sex marriage licenses, the office, which was open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., issued one opposite-sex marriage license, two concealed pistol license applications and two birth certificate requests.
“We were, in fact, open on Saturday,” Byrum said.
This situation has left several same-sex couples unsure of what their marriage means in the eyes of the law. The board of commissioners approved a resolution to “ask Michigan attorney general, Bill Schuette, to immediately withdraw his appeal, to abandon his quest to marginalize and to discriminate against same-sex couples and their children and to recognize the marriages that took place prior to the stay of the opinion.”
The resolution did pass but received three dissenting votes. Don Vickers, representing District 14, said he does not support resolutions where there are two distinct sides and, as he has done with similar resolutions in the past, voted no.
“Whether I agree with one side or the other, I do not like resolutions of this nature,” Vickers said. “If you’re going to do anything, I think it is much more effective to make a telephone call.”
Elizabeth Miller, 22, attended the meeting to see what, if anything, would be discussed about gay and lesbian rights in Ingham County. Miller said she was ecstatic that the board would take the proactive measure of calling on the attorney general to promote equality.
“I think it says a lot that the commissioners are willing to publicly support same-sex couples,” Miller said. “The more people that can get on the same page, the closer we will be to equality.”
The meeting also included resolutions to proclaim three new county holidays, all of which were passed. April 1 is National Services Day, March 31 is Cesar E. Chavez Day and March is Certified Government Financial Manager Month.