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Joy turns to frustration in West Michigan as same-sex marriage suspended

MUSKEGON, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A race to the altar. Dozens of gay couples are now married in Michigan, taking advantage of the one day it was legal.

Just hours ago, a federal appeals court suspended gay marriage, after a federal judge ruled the state's ban unconstitutional. The suspension lasts at least through Wednesday.

While it was legal, clerks in four Michigan counties issued more than 300 licenses to same-sex couples. These include Muskegon, Oakland, Washtenaw and Ingham.

The Muskegon County clerk says the marriage licenses issued before the stay was made are still valid.

Forty-eight couples raced to the altar in Muskegon Saturday. It was an emotional day as the county clerk helped many families who've been waiting years for this moment to come.

The Rev. Bill Freeman says he was disappointed he couldn't marry everyone before a federal court suspended gay marriage. "It was a good day in Michigan," Freeman says. "I wish the stay hadn't come down. I wish equality and justice continued to prevail in Michigan, but there was at least a window of equality and justice for almost 24 hours."

Art and Corey Ledin-Bristol were the last couple to get married. They say they rushed to Muskegon from Grand Rapids because they expected the stay to take place.

They say they felt "relief. We made it just in time."

"It's not what we thought we were going to do when we woke up this morning. It's here, let's take the opportunity, and just go."

Muskegon County Clerk Nancy Waters says 48 marriages were conducted before the latest decision came down are still recognized by the state. "Their marriages are good. As soon as the stay came from the Sixth District, I stopped issuing any licenses," she says.

The clerk says she hopes the Sixth Circuit rules in favor of the decision the judge had originally issued.

Michigan became the 18th state in the nation to legalize gay marriage. The state's ban was challenged by a lawsuit from two Detroit-area nurses who sued after being unable to jointly adopt their children.

Newschannel 3 traveled across West Michigan for reaction on Saturday's suspension.

Same-sex marriage supporter Doug Sipsma says, "It doesn't make a whole lot of difference to me because I personally think that it's just inevitable, there's not going to be a problem and it's just something they're throwing in the way."

In Detroit, several couples waited in line to get married. Some joked about having to rush to do so. One bride says, "I don't know if it's every girl's dream to wake up at 8 AM on Saturday morning, rush to the court house and hope to get married during a three hour window. It's so romantic. And stand in chaos. So I don't know if that was the dream but we're super grateful for the rights, of course."

There is however, widespread opposition to the legalization of gay marriage in Michigan. Bishop Paul Bradley of the Kalamazoo Catholic Diocese says, "The decision ... is unfortunate and regrettable. With the stroke of a pen, the meaning of marriage -- one of society's most sacred institutions and the very foundation of the family -- has been redefined."