MUSKEGON, Mich. – At least four Michigan counties, including Muskegon, Ingham, Washtenaw and Oakland Counties, began issuing marriage licenses Saturday.
Fourteen years into their relationship, Jere Clausen and Bruce Walters of Muskegon were the first of many same-sex couples to marry in Muskegon.
“For people to say it’s the same I don’t agree: if you make an oath before God you have to honor that so it’s different,” said Jere.
Their ceremony, brief but emotional, jerked tears from an audience of dozens of supporters and even the Reverend Bill Freeman with Harbor Unitarian Universalist Congregation.
“I’m more overcome than you guys!” said Reverend Freeman at the beginning of the marriage ceremony for Jere and Bruce.
The Reverend says he is proud to make history, as he walked into church at 7 A.M. Saturday to prepare.
“I’m elated by it but I can only imagine what same-sex couples feel like in Michigan today, on this day of justice and equality, it’s a wonderful, beautiful day,” said Reverend Freeman.
Muskegon County Clerk Nancy Waters spent hours at the Harbor UU Congregation helping the marriage license application process. Waters said the decision to overturn Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage is overdue, and because she strongly believes in following the law, she is in support of gay marriage.
“A lot of these people are working people, paying taxes, they are entitled to this,” explained Waters.
Officials were overwhelmed by the strong turn-out, while many same-sex couples say they planned their weddings in a matter of hours.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction for mankind,” said Adam Edwards, a newly-wed from Muskegon.
“I think it actually means everyone is equal, it’s not about your race, it’s not about your sexual orientation, absolutely nothing about that,” said Linda and Roberta, newly-weds.
Yet despite its newfound legality, Reverend Freeman moved the same-sex ceremonies from 11 to 9 A.M. Saturday to marry as many couples as possible before any further action was taken against the ruling.
On Friday, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an emergency motion requesting a stay of the ruling to legalize same-sex marriage. Then early Saturday evening, the U.S. Appeals Court for the Sixth Circuit issued a temporary stay on Michigan’s gay marriage until at least Wednesday.
With this recent ruling already facing opposition, the Muskegon County Clerk says all marriage licenses issued while the ban is lifted will remain legal, according to her attorney’s legal counsel.
“Any licenses issued today before a stay comes down follow the law that says they’re absolutely legal,” said Waters.