Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 25, 2014

Local same-sex couples still wait

BY SARAH ELMS selms@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City residents Nick Erber and Mike LaPierre began to make big plans when they learned U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman had ruled against Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Erber and LaPierre have been a couple for about five years. Friday’s news prompted them to plan a trip to the Grand Traverse County Clerk’s office bright and early Monday morning to obtain a marriage license and tie the knot.

But the opportunity for gay and lesbian couples to say “I do” in Michigan was short-lived -- at least for now.

The U.S. Appeals Court for the Sixth Circuit issued a temporary stay on the ruling by late Saturday after Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an emergency request for appeal.

“The balloon just kind of deflated,” Erber, 35, said.

They weren’t the only local couple forced to put their plans on hold. No marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples in Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie, Kalkaska or Antrim Counties in the short window that allowed such unions. None of the offices held special hours over the weekend in light of Friedman’s ruling as some counties did in other parts of the state.

Clerks in Grand Traverse and Kalkaska counties said they received phone calls from couples who asked about the process Monday morning.

“I did have some inquiries, but then they realized that they can’t come in today,” Grand Traverse County Clerk Bonnie Scheele said.

County clerks, like same-sex couples, are waiting for the Appeals Court to decide Wednesday when or if the stay will be lifted.

“We’ll just wait for direction and see what happens. If we can issue them, we’ll start issuing them,” Scheele said. “The requirements for same-sex couples are the same as for heterosexual couples. They need to have valid birth certificates, pay the fees and bring their ID.”

The Rev. W. Edward Grim of Agape Ministries, who works with a LGBT support group at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Grand Traverse, said there are numerous couples in Grand Traverse County who were affected by the stay.

“There was no window here to get a license. There were plans for people to be there first thing this morning, and of course, that didn’t materialize. That’s a big disappointment,” Grim said. “Once again, their lives are put on hold.”

Erber said he and LaPierre still plan to hold a ceremony on their five-year anniversary in July, whether they’ll be legally allowed to marry by then or not.