DETROIT — A federal judge ruled Thursday that Michigan must recognize hundreds of same-sex marriages performed during a brief window last year.
U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith wrote that the unions are valid, but stayed the decision for 21 days pending any appeal by the state.
A different federal judge struck down the state's gay marriage ban on March 21. More than 300 same-sex couples in four counties got married the next day, before an appeals court suspended the decision and blocked additional marriages.
Michigan has refused to recognize those marriages, which affects health insurance and the ability of same-sex couples to jointly adopt children. Goldsmith said those who married "acquired a status that state officials may not ignore absent some compelling interest."
"In these circumstances, what the state has joined together, it may not put asunder," Goldsmith wrote.
State Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a statement that his office is reviewing the ruling, and added that "the sooner the United States Supreme Court makes a decision on this issue the better it will be for Michigan and America."
The U.S. Supreme Court could decide Friday whether it will put Michigan's same-sex marriage case on its calendar in time to be argued and decided by late June. Until now, the court has managed both to avoid settling the issue for the nation as a whole. In the meantime, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of states that allow same-sex couples to marry. Last week, Florida became the 36th state to issue licenses for same-sex unions.
The Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of eight couples, said the ruling is "a victory for marriage equality."