Federal Judge Strikes Down Michigan's Same-Sex Marriage Ban
A federal judge ruled against Michigan's same-sex marriage ban on Friday, making it the latest state to move a big step towards allowing gay couples to marry.
A federal judge ruled against Michigan's same-sex marriage ban on Friday. This makes Michigan the latest state to see its ban struck down in a federal court, following the Supreme Court's 2013 decision against portions of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Four Episcopal bishops in Michigan release statement: "We applaud Judge Friedman's decision to overturn Michigan's ban on equal marriage"— Niraj Warikoo (@nwarikoo) March 21, 2014
Although it was widely expected that today's decision (should it strike down the state law) would contain a stay preventing its enforcement until the appeals process is complete, there was no indication of a stay on Friday's ruling. Shortly after U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman issued his decision, Michigan's Attorney General Bill Schuette issued an emergency request for a stay. In other words, it's not clear right now whether gay couples in the state may marry immediately, and if so, for how long. Since the ruling was issued shortly after 5 p.m. on a Friday, county clerk offices in the state are already closed, and will probably remain closed until Monday. At least one county clerk has said she is prepared to issue licenses Monday morning if a stay is not issued by then.
Update 10:30 p.m.: the Washtenaw County Clerk’s Office announced late on Friday that it would issue 60 same-sex marriage licenses starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, unless there's a stay before then. County clerk Lawrence Kestenbaum said that his office will waive a three-day waiting period and fee for those couples applying tomorrow.
Plaintiffs April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse argued that the 2004, voter-approved law is unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution's equal protection and due process clauses. In its defense, the state argued that a single judge shouldn't be able to overturn a voter-approved ban, and that the state has an interest in preserving traditional family structures. Here's how Judge Friedman (who was appointed by Ronald Reagan) addressed that argument, particularly the first part, in his conclusion:
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. 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. 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.”... Today’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.
And here's a video of the plaintiffs learning of the decision:
The full decision is here: