Michigan Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

By |2014-03-23T09:00:00-04:00March 23rd, 2014|Michigan, News|

By Crystal Proxmire

Couples in Oakland County eagerly acquiring marriage licenses. BTL photo: Andrew Potter

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled in favor of the Hazel Park couple who sued the State of Michigan and Oakland County for the right to marry and to adopt each others’ children. The Judge did not issue a stay, and on Saturday morning 315 couples in four counties were able to marry before Attorney General Bill Schuette got a temporary stay issued which will be reviewed and ruled on by Wednesday.
April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse of Hazel Park held a press conference at Affirmations Community Center in Ferndale on Friday after the judge issued his ruling. The couple has three children in total, but currently each child only has one legal parent.
The couple spent the day with their attorneys in their Hazel Park home, on pins and needles awaiting the ruling, which was issued just before 5 p.m. After a brief press conference, their plan was “to celebrate,” and to “get lots of hugs” from people at Affirmations. DeBoer thanked supporters and the attorneys who worked on the case, including Dana Nessel, Carole Stanyar and Kenneth Mogill who attended the press conference with the couple.
Judge Friedman was appointed to the bench after being nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. He was firmly in support of the couple in his ruling. In 2012, the judge suggested that rather than just suing for adoption rights, that the couple amend their claim to include the right to marry saying the ban was the real obstacle in their ability to co-adopt one another’s children.
“No court record of this proceeding could ever fully convey,” the decision reads, “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.”
“It is the Court’s fervent hope that these children will grow up ‘to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.’ Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2694. dinos02sidelogo3Today’s decision is a step in that direction, and affirms the enduring principle that regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail.”
The judge decisively dismissed the testimony of University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus, who claimed that LGBT parenting was not up to par with parents of the opposite sex. “The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration…Regnerus’s own sociology department at the University of Texas has distanced itself from … Dr. Regnerus’s views.”
Additionally Judge Friedman wrote, “In delivering their opening and closing remarks, plaintiffs’ attorneys contended that the voters who approved the MMA were motivated by animus toward individuals. Since the Court is unable discern the intentions of each individual voter who cast their ballot in favor of the measure, it is cannot ascribe such motivations to the approximately 2.7 million voters who approved the measure. Many Michigan residents have religious convictions whose principles govern the conduct of their daily lives and inform their own viewpoints about marriage. Nonetheless, these views cannot strip other citizens of the guarantees of equal protection under the law. The same Constitution that protects the free exercise of one’s faith in deciding whether to solemnize certain marriages rather than others, is the same Constitution that prevents the state from either mandating adherence to an established religion, U.S. Const. amend I, or “enforcing private moral or religious beliefs without an accompanying secular purpose.” Perry, 704 F. Supp. 2d at 930-931 (citing Lawrence v. Texas,539 U.S. 558, 571 (2003)). As a result, tradition and morality are not rational bases for the MMA.”
Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown was a defendant in the case as it was her office that was forced to deny requests for marriage licenses by same-sex couples. She secured her own attorney, who argued in favor of overturning Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage. “I’m glad to be on the losing side,” she said.
Brown issued a statement to the press. “It’s a relief that my office is no longer forced to discriminate against same-sex couples. During the course of the trial I’ve heard from many residents who want to be first in line to get a marriage license. I couldn’t be happier to say that their wait is finally over. It’s taken too long to get to this point, but we are finally here.”
Brown’s office opened Saturday at 9 a.m. to issue licenses. Hundreds flocked to the courthouse in Oakland County, where 147 couples were legally married before the temporary stay was put into effect.
Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter was available from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Affirmations Community Center in Ferndale to perform weddings, but couples had to go to the Oakland County Clerk’s office to obtain a license first.
In Washtenaw County, the Clerk got special permission to open at 9 a.m, to waive the waiting period and to reduce the fee from $50 to $.01.
In Muskegon County, Clerk Nancy Waters was on hand at Harbor Unitarian Universalist Church in Muskegon to issue licenses to couples who wish to be married by Rev. Bill Freeman.
“Today’s decision is a huge victory for the people of Michigan. The momentum toward LGBT equality is accelerating as yet another federal court finds that denying same-sex couples the fairness and dignity of marriage is unconstitutional,” said Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director. “Public opinion has changed drastically since 2004 when voters amended the Michigan constitution to exclude same-sex couples from marriage. Today, across the political spectrum, Michiganders recognize that allowing same-sex couples to marry is a matter of fundamental freedoms, economic security, and family values.”
Read the opinion, go to: http://www.aclumich.org/sites/default/files/file/DeBoer.pdf
To learn more and support April and Jayne’s fight for marriage equality, go to: http://www.michiganmarriagechallenge.com/

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BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.