Michigan Gay Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional By Federal Judge

State Capitol of Michigan, Lansing
State Capitol of Michigan, Lansing

Michigan's 10-year-old ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Friday in Detroit.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman's ruling says the ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"In attempting to define this case as a challenge to 'the will of the people,' state defendants lost sight of what this case is truly about: people," Friedman wrote. "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. ... Regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail."

Plaintiffs April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse filed a lawsuit against the state challenging the ban, enacted in 2004. The couple from Hazel Park, Mich. initially sought equal adoption rights so they could both adopt their three children, but Friedman invited them to expand their suit to include the restriction on same-sex marriage.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has continually fought for the ban, said in a statement Friday that he filed an emergency request for stay and appeal of the ruling with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

"Michigan voters enshrined that decision in our state constitution, and their will should stand and be respected. I will continue to carry out my duty to protect and defend the constitution,” Schuette said.

In his ruling, Friedman referred to testimony from Stanford University sociologist Michael Rosenfeld, an expert witness for the plaintiffs.

"The Court finds Rosenfeld’s testimony to be highly credible and gives it great weight," he wrote. "His research convincingly shows that children of same-sex couples do just as well in school as the children of heterosexual married couples, and that same-sex couples are just as stable as heterosexual couples."

The opinion goes on to dismiss the claims of state witness Mark Regnerus, a sociologist and author of a controversial study that found children of parents who had same-sex relationships were worse off. Friedman wrote that the "New Family Structures Study" is "flawed on its face." Regnerus was denounced by the University of Texas at Austin, where he is an associate professor, the same day that he testified in the Michigan trial.

"The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration," the ruling states.

Read the full ruling here:

"Our family is like any other family," DeBoer wrote in an editorial for the Free Press last month. "We’re not political activists; we’re not trying to advance any particular agenda. We’re just people who love our children and want what’s best for them."

A federal judge in Texas struck down the state's gay marriage ban last month, following several other states. More than a dozen states now recognize same-sex marriage.

UPDATE: March 23 -- On Saturday afternoon, a federal appeals court released an order suspending same-sex marriages in Michigan, the Associated Press reports. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati issued the stay following Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's appeal of U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman's ruling Friday that the state's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

Before the stay was issued, several Michigan county clerks issued hundreds of marriage licenses and performed dozens of ceremonies, according to the Detroit News.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story mistakenly indicated that both Michael Rosenfeld and Mark Regnerus were denounced by their universities. That happened only to Regnerus.

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Michigan Gay Marriage Trial