PONTIAC, MI -- It was fun while it lasted for hundreds of gay Michigan couples who got married Saturday.
With a voter-approved ban against same-sex nuptials out of the way for about 24 hours, couples rushed to tie the knot in four Michigan counties where clerks held special weekend hours to issue marriage licenses.
But an appeals court put a stop to the immediate wedding planning, issuing a temporary stay of U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman's Friday ruling that called the Michigan Marriage Act unconstitutional.
Friedman issued a decision that rejected all of the state's arguments that voters made a rational decision in approving the law in 2004, and went as far as praising the plaintiffs for seeking to "ensure that the state may no longer impair the rights of their children and the thousands of others now being raised by same-sex couples."
April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse of Hazel Park sued the state because they can't jointly adopt their three kids in Michigan. They feared that if one parent were to die, the other may not get custody of all three children without a legal marriage.
The state immediately after the late Friday afternoon court decision filed notice of appeal and an emergency motion for a stay of Friedman's ruling.
The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the plaintiffs to file a response by Tuesday and put the gay marriage ban back in effect through Wednesday, "to allow a more reasoned consideration of the motion."
But hundreds of couples managed to legally get hitched Saturday before the late afternoon halt.
'Excited and sad'
Glenna DeJong and Marsha Caspar of Lansing were the first gay couple ever to be legally married in Michigan.
"We're just one of a long line of states who are realizing that gay people have rights too, the same rights as heterosexuals," DeJong said just after marrying her partner of 27 years in a short, emotional ceremony held in the hallway of the Ingham County Courthouse in Mason.
Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum married the couple. She said she decided to open her office to issue marriage licenses Saturday after a sleepless Friday night.
"So many people have been waiting long enough, and it seemed the more I thought about it, the more absurd it seemed to make them wait," Byrum said.
Same-sex couples get married at Muskegon's Harbor Unitarian Universalist church
Same-sex couples lined up to be married at Muskegon's Harbor Unitarian Universalist church March 22, 2014.
Clerks in Washtenaw, Oakland and Muskegon counties did the same.
Muskegon County Clerk Nancy Waters was still processing couples and had to turn people away when word of the stay came just before 5 p.m.
"The stay stopped me from continuing," she said. "These people that are married, are married."
Sherrie Tyler of Commerce Township had guessed a stay would come quickly.
"We're glad we were able to get in today and take care of this," she said as she waited to apply for a marriage license with her partner of 30 years Pennye Mattson in a long line of elated couples at the Oakland County Clerk's office Saturday morning.
"I didn't think it would happen in my lifetime," Tyler said before making her way to the counter and filing the paperwork.
Christa Moran and Mel Whalen of Ann Arbor weren't as lucky.
First gay marriage in Ann Arbor
Elizabeth Patten and Johnnie Terry, both of Ann Arbor, are the first gay couples to be married about 9:25 a.m. Saturday, March 22, 2014 in the Washtenaw County Clerk's Office in downtown Ann Arbor. U.S. 6th Circuit Court Judge Judith Levy officiated the ceremony.
The couple of eight years got to the Washtenaw County clerk's office at 8:45 a.m., but were turned away when the special Saturday hours ended at 1 p.m.
They could have a much longer wait ahead if the stay is extended through the appeals process.
"(A marriage license) solidifies what we mean to each other, and that the state recognizes and values that," Whalen, who is deaf, said through her interpreter.
Though they were number 56 in line, the clerk was honoring numbers given to couples who waited in line at the office Oct. 16, 2013, in the hopes that a court ruling that day would allow them to marry.
"We're excited and sad, at the same time," Moran said.
DeBoer and Rowse chose not to get married Saturday, saying they'll wait through the appeals process, even if it takes years.
"We will be getting married - when we know that our marriage is forever binding," DeBoer said.
They're lawyer Dana Nessel said the stay order was disappointing, but not unexpected.
"I am disappointed because it would have been great for people ... in all 83 counties to be able to go in and get a marriage license," she said.
Rev. Jeff Liebmann, a Midland pastor who had been preparing to officiate same-sex marriages on Monday, was frustrated by the latest court order.
"This puts us back for what we've been preparing for for two weeks," he said. "The moment it's allowed and the stay is lifted and the office is opened, we are all descending down to the clerk's office as quick as possible. So as soon as it is lifted, we will be back to our plan."
Other Michigan clergymen viewed the developments differently.
"While our faith teaches us to treat individuals with same-sex attraction with respect, compassion and sensitivity, we also are called to defend the divine institution of marriage between one man and one woman," said Bishop Paul J. Bradley of the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo, calling Friedman's ruling "unfortunate and regrettable."
(Full, ongoing coverage of Michigan's gay marriage developments here.)
Bishop David Walkowiak of the Diocese of Grand Rapids said Friedman's ruling sought to alter "the fundamental meaning and structure of marriage that has existed from the beginning,"
"The biological realities of male and female together with the complementarity they bring to the institution of marriage allow for the natural procreation of children and the opportunity for the child to be nurtured and to learn from a mother and a father, each of whom brings unique gifts to the family, the fundamental building block of society," he said.
'Integrity and closeness'
Friedman rejected state arguments that voters in approving the ban rationally sought to promote an "optimal environment" for child rearing; to "proceed with caution" before altering marriage law; and to "uphold tradition and morality."
"None of these proffered reasons provides a rational basis for adopting the amendment," wrote Friedman. "... Prohibiting gays and lesbians from
marrying does not stop them from forming families and raising children. Nor does prohibiting same-sex marriage increase the number of heterosexual marriages or the number of children raised by heterosexual parents. There is, in short, no logical connection between banning same-sex marriage and providing children with an 'optimal environment' or achieving 'optimal outcomes.'"
Rowse and DeBoer after gay marriage ruling
Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer speak at an LGBT community center in Ferndale after a federal judge strikes down Michigan's gay marriage ban.
Nolan Rowse, 5, Jacob Rowse, 4, and Ryanne DeBoer, 4, were watching the movie "Wall-E" in their Hazel Park play room when news of Friedman's ruling came.
The joyous shouts and tears of their parents only upset Ryanne and annoyed the boys, too young to understand the impact of a case that revolved around them.
"It is the Court's fervent hope that these children will grow up 'to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives,'" Friedman wrote in his ruling, quoting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion in the June 2013 ruling that struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
"Today's decision is a step in that direction, and affirms the enduring principle that regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail."
'Cloud of uncertainty'
Michigan was briefly the 18th state allowing gay couples to marry, but now joins four other states, Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia and Texas, that have had courts overturn gay marriage bans, but with rulings stayed pending appeal.
Another 17 states and Washington D.C. allow same-sex marriage without restriction, legalized by popular vote in three states, legislative action in eight and court decisions in six.
In Utah, after a federal judge struck down that state's gay marriage ban and the U.S. Supreme Court imposed a stay two weeks later, same-sex marriages that took place during the gap were no longer recognized.
It was unclear whether that will happen in Michigan.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette warned about the uncertainty in his request for an immediate stay of Friedman's order.
"Should a stay not be granted, marriage licenses would be issued under a cloud of uncertainty, the State would face administrative burdens, and actions taken in reliance on the licenses would impact employers, creditors, and others," he wrote.
His spokesperson Joy Yearout would only say after the stay was issued Saturday: "The courts will sort it out."
Attorney General Bill Schuette in Saginaw
Attorney General Bill Schuette speaks to Saginaw County Republicans at the group's annual Lincoln Day Breakfast Saturday, March 22, at the Saginaw Country Club. Schuette talked about his work as attorney general, including his fight to uphold Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage, and announced his campaign for reelection in 2014.
Schuette said earlier in the day during a Saginaw Republican gathering that he expects the case to ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.
"Marriage is between a man and a woman, something that our courts seem to be struggling with," he said.
Meanwhile, after two years of court processes, a nine-day trial, a two-week wait for a ruling and a hectic Saturday, married and engaged gay couples across Michigan were still left unsure about their future.
"It sucks," said a blunt Denise Phillips of Detroit, who wants to marry her partner of four years. "We've been waiting."
Friedman's ruling, she said, signified to her that "some people are starting to be more open to other lifestyles."
"It's really not a sin to be a bisexual or a homosexual," she said. "People take the whole Sodom and Gomorrah thing to the wrong level."
MLive reporters Melissa Anders in Mason, Stephen Kloosterman in Muskegon, Amy Biolchini in Ann Arbor, Bob Johnson in Midland, Rosemary Parker in Kalamazoo, Monica Scott in Grand Rapids, Gus Burns in Detroit, Mark Tower in Saginaw, Jonathan Oosting in Lansing and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Follow MLive Detroit reporter Khalil AlHajal on Twitter @DetroitKhalil or on Facebook at Detroit Khalil. He can be reached at email@example.com or 313-643-0527.