Michigan and Same Sex Marriage | History and Current Situation



If you still do not know the answer to the question is gay marriage legal in Michigan, we’ve got you covered. So, keep reading to learn about the status and the history of gay marriage in the Great Lakes State!


Current situation

According to current legislation, gay marriage is legal in the state of Michigan. In fact, as a result of the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, gay marriage is now considered legal in all states of the US. 

However, until 2015, numerous efforts were made in an attempt to legalize same-sex marriage in Michigan. Let’s take a close look at the history of gay marriage in this state.


The history of gay marriage in Michigan

The first legislature measures passed by Michigan in order to ban gay marriages originate in June 1995, when the then Governor John Engler signed two such bills that became the law. The restrictions on gay marriage were challenged by opponents in 2004 on the basis that the law introduced to deem gay marriage illegal contained discriminatory language.

Between 2004 and 2012, a nationwide conversation about the rights of same-sex couples became front and center. Because of the activism of numerous organizations, Americans started to be educated on the topic of inclusivity and the rights to marry of the people from the gay community.

On August 13th, 2012, a poll carried out in Michigan showed that most respondents were in favor of same-sex marriages. The same year, several same-sex couples and their private lawyers, with the help of the ACLU and the Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders took the step of filing a case that argued that gay people should be given the right to adopt children and to get married. 

Two years later, in 2014, judge Bernard A. Friedman finally ruled that banning same-sex marriages in Michigan is an unconstitutional measure. After this win, no less than 300 same-sex couples got married in the state. This historic ruling was appealed to the Court of Appeals.

In 2014, Michigan for Marriage, an organization that aimed to educate and campaign for same-sex marriages in Michigan was founded. In the same year, the Court of Appeals ruled against the freedom to marry case. As a result, the case was set to appear in front of the United States Supreme Court.

In 2015, the Supreme Court reviewed the previous decision taken by the Court of Appeals and it ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. This ruling was nothing short of historic, as the Court decided that same-sex marriages should be deemed legal nationwide. 


Who fought for marriage equality?

As the events presented before show it, the process of obtaining the legalization of same-sex marriages was a strenuous one. There were numerous organizations and groups that helped to make this a reality and that should be mentioned. 

Freedom to marry was the nationwide campaign that finally managed to win the legalization of same-sex marriage. This campaign was created and managed by Evan Wolfson; a Harvard educated lawyer. 

Michigan for Marriage was the local campaign that educated the citizens of the state on gay rights and the importance of same-sex marriage for the gay community. After the legalization of gay marriage, the organization was not dissolved. Today, Michigan for Marriage continues its fight and it advocated for the rights of the gay community against discriminatory laws such as The Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

ACLU of Michigan and the American Civil Liberties Union were also organizations that protected and fought to expand the rights of the LGBT community. 


Local domestic partnerships and common marriage

While the state of Michigan does not recognize domestic partnerships statewide, some local governments in cities such as the City of Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Detroit, Kalamazoo do. The same is true for three counties Wayne, Ingham, and Washtenaw. There is currently no law in Michigan through which the state authorizes or recognizes domestic partnerships obtained in other states. 

Moreover, it should be pointed out that Michigan has not allowed common-law marriages since 1957. Still, a court might recognize the validity of such a marriage after considering a number of factors such as whether or not the partners have signed power of attorney to one another, or if the common marriage was signed in a state where such partnerships are recognized under state law.


Sodomy laws

The state of Michigan had sodomy laws that applied to both heterosexuals and homosexuals. However, in 2003, the laws were invalidated and, as a result, sexual acts between same-sex partners are no longer criminalized.


Adoption and parenting

There is currently no statutory law that bans same-sex couples from adopting children. On top of that, Michigan also allows single LGBT individuals to adopt, as well as same-sex couples. There is no explicit prohibition that bans a same-sex partner to adopt his/her partner’s children.

Yet, before 2015, only married same-sex couples could adopt a child jointly, and only married partners could use the equitable parent doctrine during divorce or separation. In 2015, in accordance with a decision made by a federal judge, faith-based adoption agencies in Michigan were given the right to refuse to place children in the care of LGBTQ couples or individuals. 

This was a very detrimental ruling for gay couples and individuals, as fate-based adoption agencies were funded by the state and they had the role of managing children who came from broken families and who needed help. The decision was deemed discriminatory and, since 2019, Michigan state stopped funding agencies that discriminated against the members of the LGBTQ community. 



As a result of the decision imposed by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission from 2018, it is now illegal for people to discriminate against citizens based on their sexual orientation or their gender identity. Until 2018, no such laws were in place to protect the LGBTQ community. This decision was criticized by Attorney General Bill Schuette who claimed that the Commission had no power to make such a ruling. As of 2018, the decision is valid. 

The same year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that it was illegal to discriminate against transgender people on the basis of their sex. The Court of Appeals also ruled that it was illegal for employees to discriminate against the LGBT community by using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

Therefore, workplace discrimination based on gender identity is no longer legal in the state of Michigan. Approximately thirty local municipalities have human rights ordinances that further prohibit discrimination in housing and employment for the members of the LGBT community. 


Conversion therapy and gender identity

Conversion therapy is not banned in Michigan, even though numerous medical and mental health organizations have discredited this practice. Conversion therapy is, however, banned in no less than 18 states, and many other counties and cities, including Huntington Woods.

Michigan is one of the states that requires those who what to legally change their gender to undergo sex reassignment surgery. From 2021, it was announced that the driver licenses emitted in Michigan will include gender X as well. 


Other rights

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, as well as transgender people, are allowed to openly join and serve in the military. MSMs or males who have sex with males have the right to donate blood provided that they respect a one-year deferral period.

While it is true that Michigan has taken important steps to protect its LGBTQ community, there are still some rights that have yet to be obtained. For instance, male gay couples cannot benefit from having access to surrogacy, and lesbian couples do not have access to IVF insemination.

What is more, no LGBT-inclusive sex education or LGBT-inclusive history is taught to children in schools. According to a study published in 2019, the Great Lakes State is home to no less than 311, 400 gay adults. The same research indicates that LGBT youth in Michigan is subjected to harassment and bullying in school and via the internet. This situation is worrisome as it is approximated that Michigan is the home of 61,200 LGBT youth aged 13 to 17. 

Anti-bullying rules exist in Michigan, but they are not clearly formulated to directly express the personal characteristics that cause LGBTQ youth from being bullied.


Gay pride

In 2020, Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared June 2020 Pride month in the state. Annually, Michigan cities organize numerous festivals, dance parties, and events dedicated to pride month. Some of the most popular events of this kind are Michigan Pride, Motor City Pride, Grand Rapids Pride, or Traverse City Pride. 

The first gay pride march ever to be held in the state was organized in 1972 by the Michigan Gay Confederation, and it was called Christopher Street Detroit ’72. 

To celebrate the history of the gay community in Michigan, an LGBT Heritage exhibit was organized in 1999 at the University of Michigan’s Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library. If you are interested in exploring this exhibition from the comfort of your home, you can do so by accessing the website of the library.

If you want to settle down in Michigan, and you are looking for gay-friendly cities, you should consider Pleasant Ridge, Norway, Lake Orion, or Bridgman.