Midland County Judges: Courts Will Still Perform Marriages

MIDLAND, Mich. (AP) - Three Midland County judges say the courts still will perform marriages, despite a colleague's statement that he wouldn't do so in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Midland District Judge Michael D. Carpenter said he decided to cut out weddings after the high court's 5-4 ruling overturning bans on same-sex marriages in Michigan and other states.

"When the decision came down from the Supreme Court, I read through the case and then read through the statutes of what the court is required to do," Carpenter told the Midland Daily News. "The district court can, but is not required, to do marriages."

The law "says may, not shall," he said.

Carpenter, a former Midland County prosecutor, said he has been making a number of cost-cutting moves as a result of staffing reductions in district court, which now has one judge and one magistrate. District court handles misdemeanor crimes and initial proceedings in felony cases, as well as civil matters.

The judge said gay marriage "is an issue that is near and dear to both sides' hearts" but didn't make a statement on its merits.

The Associated Press left a phone message for Carpenter asking for his position on gay marriage.

On July 1, county Chief Judge Stephen Carras and two colleagues released a letter saying they're "making sure that people who want to get married are able to do so in their courthouse."

"The people of Midland County elected us to uphold the Constitution and laws of this land," said the letter signed by Carras, Circuit Judge Michael Beale and probate and juvenile Judge Dorene S. Allen. "Weddings are a source of great joy and hope for the future, and our court is honored to help families grow and prosper in our community."

County Clerk Ann Manary said she, too, will officiate for couples seeking courthouse weddings. She said she granted four marriage applications to same-sex couples on June 26 and a few so far last week.

"Most couples are setting dates and making arrangements to get married, maybe at their church or another venue, just like heterosexual couples would," she told The Saginaw News. "The big wave, I think, has passed."

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