Clergy to sign marriage licenses if judge rules for equality in Michigan

Judge may issue ruling in Hazel Park couple's lawsuit on Wednesday


Several local clergy people and other officials promise to be on hand to sign marriage licenses at the Washtenaw County Clerk's office if a federal judge rules for marriage equality in Michigan on Wednesday.

Federal Judge Bernard Friedman will begin to hear the case of DeBoer v. Snyder, as Hazel Park couple April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are suing the state for the right to legally wed and co-adopt their three children.

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Michigan law currently bans the state from issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples or in any way recognizing their relationships.

Officials said state law also only allows single people or legally married couples to adopt children, but not two people whom the state does not recognize as married.

"I look forward to the day that I can sign marriage licenses for same-gender couples just as I do for opposite-sex couples," Rev. Deborah Dean-Ware of Church of the Good Shepherd in Ann Arbor said.

Church of the Good Shepherd says it is part of the United Church of Christ denomination and has long witnessed for equality.

It is possible that Judge Friedman may issue a ruling in the lawsuit on Wednesday. If he rules in favor of the Hazel Park family and does not issue a stay, that day church officials aid Rev. Dean-Ware and others who can legally officiate marriages will do so for couples who want to get married.

According to MLive, clerks in Bay, Clare, Ingham, Midland, Oakland, Tuscola and Washtenaw counties also indicated that they are ready to begin issuing licenses immediately after a ruling. However, MLive said many have not yet responded and others said they would wait for a directive from the state.

The officiants said they will gather at the Washtenaw County Clerk's Office at 200 North Main Street in Ann Arbor. Clerk Lawrence Kestembaum has said he is prepared to issue licenses to same-gender couples if the judge rules in their favor.

Angela Minicuci, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Community Health, said officials are looking at revising the marriage license application form in case the ban is lifted but have not completed the work.

Officials said Michigan residents must apply for a license in the county in which at least one of them lives. They must bring with them to the clerk's office their photo identification documents -- generally a driver's license or state ID -- birth certificates, Social Security cards or Social Security numbers and $20 for the license fee. Couples obtain the license at the County Clerk's office.

Rev. Dean-Ware has gathered clergy from many faiths to sign licenses on the day the state begins to issue them.

"This will be a great day in the history of our state and a major milestone in the march toward equality for all God's children," Rev. Dean-Ware said.

Lawyer Dana Nessel will hold a press conference and rally on the steps of the federal courthouse in Detroit at 12 p.m. Wednesday.

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