Local response slow to same-sex ruling

Last month’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow same-sex marriage nationwide may draw more citizens from Michigan to the Fulton County Courthouse than county residents.

In a polarizing 5-4 decision to legalize gay marriage, a majority of the Supreme Court justices cited the 14th Amendment, which guarantees all U.S. citizens equal protection of the law. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion that “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

In the first several days after the ruling, only one area same-sex couple has visited the offices of Fulton County Probate Court to take out a marriage license. An office employee said because larger cities in the state like Toledo have seen an influx of same-sex marriage requests “we were anticipating having some.”

The employee said the usual procedure will be followed for gay couples seeking a license. The only change will be an update of the forms to make the language gender neutral.

She said to her knowledge no same-sex couples have in the past requested a marriage license in Fulton County.

Probate Court Judge Michael Bumb said he assumes his office will receive a significant amount of marriage license requests from Michigan residents. He said some will likely come to Fulton County to avoid couple counseling that can be mandated in their state before a license is issued.

In the case of gay marriage, Judge Bumb agrees with the dissent issued by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts within the court’s ruling. Roberts said, in part, that a good portion of the majority’s reasoning “would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marraige.”

In his argument, Roberts continued: “Although the majority randomly inserts the adjective ‘two’ in various places, it offers no reason at all why the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not.”

Judge Bumb said marriage has been defined as one man and one woman “from a time immemorial.” Although he believes the dissenters on the Supreme Court are correct, “that doesn’t mean I’m not required to follow the rule of the majority. Whatever the judge’s personal feelings, he’s supposed to put those aside and follow the law to the best of his ability, and that’s what I try to do. That’s how we’ve done things since the Founding Fathers.”