University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Blankenship v. Snyder PB-MI-0009
Docket / Court 2:14-cv-12221 ( E.D. Mich. )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection Same-Sex Marriage
Case Summary
On June 5, 2014, a same-sex couple, represented by private counsel, in Michigan challenged the state's refusal to recognize their marriage, filing a claim against the state pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Following ... read more >
On June 5, 2014, a same-sex couple, represented by private counsel, in Michigan challenged the state's refusal to recognize their marriage, filing a claim against the state pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Following the United States Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor, plaintiffs had traveled to the State of New York and gotten married under state law. Upon returning, Michigan did not recognize this marriage.

Specifically, Michigan Public Act 324 had invalidated by statute all same-sex marriages in Michigan, and Michigan Public Act 334 prohibited the recognition of same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions (both statutes were passed in 1996). Additionally, the 2004 Michigan Marriage Amendment essentially codified these restrictions into the state's constitution. One of the plaintiffs here was a legal parent to an adopted child, but the couple was prevented from joint adoption in Michigan because of their unrecognized marriage. The plaintiffs alleged that this deprives their child of many benefits associated with recognition of a legal family unit and deprives the couple of equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Plaintiffs requested a declaratory judgment declaring that the out-of-state marital nonrecognition provisions of the Michigan Marriage Amendment and the 1996 statutes violated their rights under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the
Fourteenth Amendment; an injunction preventing the defendants, in their official
capacities, from attempting to block state and local governmental recognition of
existing, valid marriages between same-sex couples performed in other
jurisdictions; and an award of attorney fees and costs under 42 U.S.C. § 1988.

On February 10, 2015, the court (Judge Arthur J. Tarnow) granted a stay in this case, pending the U.S. Supreme Court resolution of DeBoer v. Snyder. The latter case, while not featuring a couple with a marriage recognized in a different jurisdiction, challenged the constitutionality of the Michigan Public Acts at issue here as well as the Michigan Marriage amendment. DeBoer v. Snyder invalidated Michigan's same-sex marriage restrictions at the district court level, was reversed by the 6th Circuit, and was heard in a consolidated action as Obergefell v. Hodges before the United States Supreme Court in April of 2015.

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision in Obergefell that the Fourteenth Amendment requires all states to grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states. 135 S.Ct. 2584 (2015).

On July 16, 2015, the stay was lifted and this case was reopened. On July 30, 2015, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that the plaintiffs' claims were moot in light of the Obergefell decision, after the plaintiffs' counsel denied a request for concurrence in the motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs' response was that while the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell granted a substantial part of the relief they requested, the invalidation of the Michigan Marriage Amendment, it did not grant another part of their requested relief: the invalidation of the 1996 statutory provisions.

On October 22, 2015, the court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss, finding that regardless of whether the 1996 provisions had technically been declared invalid, there was no reasonable chance that that the defendants would again deny recognition to the plaintiffs' marriage. The court dismissed the plaintiffs' claims as moot and found that the plaintiffs would not be "prevailing parties" entitled to attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. The case is now closed.

Eric Cole - 03/30/2015
Sarah McDonald - 08/07/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Sexual orientatation
General
Adoption
Gay/lesbian/transgender
Marriage
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) State of Michigan
Plaintiff Description Same-sex Michigan couple, parents to two children, seeking recognition of their New York marriage.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filing Year 2014
Case Closing Year 2015
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
2:14-cv-12221 (E.D. Mich.)
PB-MI-0009-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/22/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PB-MI-0009-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/05/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Defendants' Motion To Stay And Administratively Terminating Defendants' Motion To Dismiss [ECF# 28] (E.D. Mich.)
PB-MI-0009-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/10/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 34] (E.D. Mich.)
PB-MI-0009-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/22/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Hluchaniuk, Michael J. (E.D. Mich.) [Magistrate]
PB-MI-0009-0002
Tarnow, Arthur J. (E.D. Mich.)
PB-MI-0009-0002 | PB-MI-0009-0003 | PB-MI-0009-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Gibbs, Alec S. (Michigan)
PB-MI-0009-0001 | PB-MI-0009-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Booth, Joshua O. (Michigan)
PB-MI-0009-9000
Grossi, Christina M. (Michigan)
PB-MI-0009-9000
Murphy, Michael F (Michigan)
PB-MI-0009-9000
Reising, William H. (Michigan)
PB-MI-0009-9000

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