April 14, 2014 at 6:50 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Lawsuit seeks state benefits for Michigan marriages
James Anteau, Jared Haddock, Samantha Wolf, Martha Rutledge, ACLU, Michigan, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

On left, James Anteau and Jared Haddock. On right, Samantha Wolf and Martha Rutledge. Both couples were married in Michigan and are seeking state benefits. (Photos courtesy of ACLU of Michigan)

A new lawsuit was filed Monday seeking to extend state benefits to the more than 300 same-sex couples who wed in Michigan on the single day the state enjoyed marriage equality.

The litigation was initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan on behalf of eight same-sex couples that married in four counties on March 22 — the day after U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

After the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed any further weddings from happening, Gov. Rick Snyder announced the state would recognize these couples as married, but suspend state benefits for the couples until the litigation was resolved.

The lawsuit, known as Caspar v. Snyder, was filed before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and contends that once these were legally married in Michigan, the benefits to which they are entitled couldn’t be taken away.

Among the state benefits in question is the ability to adopt children jointly and the ability to provide health insurance to a spouse. According to the lawsuit, denying couples these benefits violates their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“By retroactively stripping Plaintiffs’ marriages of legal recognition, the Governor has placed Plaintiffs and their families in an intolerable state of legal limbo that threatens their wellbeing, health, financial security, and family integrity, and denies their dignity as free and equal citizens,” the complaint says.

Although the state has suspended benefits for the couples, they’re receiving the federal benefits of marriage thanks to a decision from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder deeming those marriages valid in the eyes of the Obama administration.

Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan, said Michigan must follow suit and allow same-sex couples married in Michigan to receive the state benefits of marriage.

“As a matter of law and fundamental fairness, the state is obligated to extend the protections that flow from marriage to all those who celebrated their weddings last month,” Moss said. “Doing anything less treats legally married gay and lesbian couples like second-class citizens, and adds to the confusion and instability these loving families have endured.”

The office of the Michigan Attorney Bill Schuette declined to comment on the lawsuit. Snyder’s office didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment.

Among the plaintiff couples in the lawsuit are Clint McCormack and Bryan Reame, who have been together for 22 years and are seeking legal protections for their 13 children.

In a statement, McCormack said his son Keegan was in anguish after he learned his parents wouldn’t enjoy legal protections afforded to other children with opposite-sex married parents.

“To put children through this kind of stress is inexcusable and unforgivable,” McCormack said. “How do I explain that our family isn’t recognized to my five year old? Or my eight year old? I don’t want them to go through the pain that Keegan went through.”

Also among the couples are Glenna DeJong and Marsha Caspar of Ingham County, who have been together for 27 years and became the first same-sex couple to wed in Michigan, as well as Bianca Racine and Carrie Miller of Oakland County; Martin Contreras and Keith Orr of Washtenaw County; Samantha Wolf and Martha Rutledge of Ingham County; Frank Colasonti, Jr. and James Barclay Ryder of Oakland County; Kelly Callison and Anne Callison, of Washtenaw County; and James Anteau and Jared Haddock of Oakland County.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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