Judge strikes down Michigan's gay marriage ban

Michigan's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, a federal judge said Friday, striking down a law that was widely embraced by voters a decade ago in the latest in a series of similar decisions across the country.
AP Wire
Mar 21, 2014

But unlike cases in other states, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman did not suspend his decision while the Michigan attorney general pursues an appeal. That means clerks could start issuing licenses Monday unless a higher court intervenes.

Friedman released his 31-page ruling exactly two weeks after a rare trial that mostly focused on the impact of same-sex parenting on children. The challenge was brought by two Detroit-area nurses originally seeking to overturn Michigan's ban on joint adoptions by gay couples.

The judge noted that supporters of same-sex marriage believe the Michigan ban was at least partly the result of animosity toward gays and lesbians.

"Many Michigan residents have religious convictions whose principles govern the conduct of their daily lives and inform their own viewpoints about marriage," Friedman said. "Nonetheless, these views cannot strip other citizens of the guarantees of equal protection under the law."

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia issue licenses for same-sex marriage. Since December, bans on gay marriage have been overturned in Texas, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia, but appeals have put those cases on hold.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, asked a federal appeals court to freeze Friedman's decision and prevent same-sex couples from marrying while he appeals the case.

The decision was filed in Detroit shortly after 5 p.m., when most county clerk offices were closed and couldn't issue licenses.

"We'll be ready to go first thing. ... We open at 8 a.m.," said Barb Byrum, the clerk in Ingham County, home of the state capital.

The women who brought the 2012 lawsuit, Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, are raising three adopted children with special needs at their Hazel Park home. But they can't jointly adopt each other's children because that is tied exclusively to marriage in Michigan. They also want to get married.

Attorney Dana Nessel read portions of the decision on live TV at the kitchen table in the DeBoer-Rowse home.

"It's unbelievable," DeBoer said. "We got our day in court. We won."

Rowse, 49, and DeBoer, 42, didn't testify, and the trial had nothing to do with their relationship. In fact, attorneys for the state told the judge that they are great parents.

Instead, the state urged the judge to respect the results of a 2004 election in which 59 percent of voters approved a constitutional amendment that said marriage in Michigan can only be between a man and a woman. Conservative scholars also questioned the impact of same-sex parenting on children.

Friedman, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, wasn't moved.

"State defendants lost sight of what this case is truly about: people," the judge said. "No court record of this proceeding could ever fully convey the personal sacrifice of these two plaintiffs who seek to ensure that the state may no longer impair the rights of their children and the thousands of others now being raised by same-sex couples."

Experts testifying for Rowse and DeBoer said there were no differences between the children of same-sex couples and those raised by a man and woman. And the University of Texas took the extraordinary step of disavowing the testimony of sociology professor Mark Regnerus, who was a witness for Michigan.

Dave Murray, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, said the state has an "obligation" to defend what voters chose in 2004.

If a "court concludes the provision of the Michigan Constitution cannot be enforced, he'd respect those decisions and follow the rule of law," Murray said of Snyder.

Michigan's Roman Catholic leaders, led by Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron, said gays and lesbians should be "accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity." But the judge, they said, is wrongly redefining marriage.

"This decision ... mistakenly proposes that marriage is an emotional arrangement that can simply be redefined to accommodate the dictates of culture and the wants of adults," seven bishops said.



If i worked for the county clerk, i would quit !!!


Yeah! Equality under the law is such a terrible principle! [/s]


I think we tend to prioritize what we think are the "key" issues of our day. I don't agree with the Judge's decision, but more importantly I believe the Bible identifies man's true "key" issue, which is sin. We can and do make judgement's on all kinds of situations and people. Bottom line is God is the final Judge and will demonstrate such judgement on all of us, no matter who you are or what your situation is (Hebrews 9:27). God's action towards sin is clearly defined in Romans 1:18-32. Unfortunately the popular belief is that we expect God to adjust His sovereignty to accommodate cultural demands.

Back to the Wall

I withdraw my comment. It was hurtful and mean spirited, and assumed I knew I knew the heart of its target. The whole "point one finger, three point back".

This topic chaps my ass on both cheeks.

First, that court and government and religion are even concerning themselves with what happens between consenting adults. Preachers and politicians are birds of the same feather. All they care about is control.

Second, that now, after twenty-five years of working my aforementioned9 butt off trying to make it work, raising children, and subjugating myself to the institution, a special interest group wants to cheapen the definition of my marriage by redefining the word.

Equal rights? Have all you want.
Adopt a kid? Go ahead if you can obligate the love and commitment.
Power of attorney? No doubt. You two are life partners, evidently love one another, and deserve no less.

But call it something else. Your insistence on redefining the word has alienated me. If marriage is what you want to call it, give me another word that means as much, because if a homosexual relationship is marriage, I'm not married to the woman with whom I have loved, raised children and overcome adversity for 30 years.

You have taken that word from us.


That's funny! Saddam died to got to hell for his 72 virgins. Only to find out they were gay......... Phelps will find out the same.....lmao


The handwriting is on the wall. Even if the Circuit Court stays the decision pending appeal, the pattern in federal courts is clear: marriage equality is a matter of constitutional import, and separate, unequal institutions are not adequate for LGBT persons, particularly when such distinctions are based primarily on anti-LGBT animus.


So so sad and disgraceful of this judge and all the other judges that have become such weak and self absorbed with making decisions without any moral and social ramifications. Believe me now, the true judge of mankind will not be weak of heart.


Some people do not believe in equal rights or separation of church and state. These same people have voted time and time again to take from the poor and give to the Rich. To call a Judge weak for following the constitution is disgraceful.


it does not state anywhere in the constitution about marriage, but what is sad that more and more laws that are passed by vote of the people are being over turn
ed by the courts,thats whats sad


The reason laws are being overturned is because they deprive some people of rights that other people have.


In a democratic society like ours, the "tyranny of the majority" cannot be used to deny rights to minority groups: rights are rights. Just because a majority of people like something does not automatically make it right, or legal. Laws discriminating against African-Americans were very popular among whites in the South, but they violated the Constitution all the same. The same is true today, and in both cases, religious objections were used to justify bigotry and discrimination.


I'm done with all the politics. All I care about is all this love. And all these weddings I am going to. Most today even. I've never experienced a day willed with more love and joy. I feel sorry for those who choose to deprive themselves of this wonderful experience.




I don't understand what the big deal is. Marriage, both hetero and homosexual, was around LONG before Christianity. I am a straight female, and yes, a Christian, and I think it is wonderful that all of my friends and I have the same rights. (And I am so very looking forward to a fantastic wedding!)

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