On Friday, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman struck down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and adoption in a ruling that ended one case but potentially spurred another.
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Judge Bernard Friedman struck down the Michigan Marriage Act, which was enacted by popular vote in 2004, writing it was unconstitutional since it did not protect gays and lesbians equally under the law.
In 2012, Hazel Park residents April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse took the ban to court because they were denied joint adoption of their three children. Their case initially challenged the adoption process in Michigan, but it shifted to a broader discussion of same-sex marriage, as well as asking whether children are at a disadvantage with same-sex parents or not.
State Rep. Adam Zemke (D–Ann Arbor) told The Michigan Daily that the Washtenaw County Clerk will be open on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Ceremonies will commence at 10 a.m. and the Honorable Carol Kuhnke will officiate the proceedings.
However, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) requested an emergency stay for the case shortly after the decision was announced, which may prevent same-sex couples from joining in matrimony right away.
Schuette said he’s fighting the ruling because he wants to respect the will of Michigan voters.
“In 2004, the citizens of Michigan recognized that diversity in parenting is best for kids and families because moms and dads are not interchangeable,” Schuette wrote. “Michigan voters enshrined that decision in our State constitution, and their will should stand and be respected.”
State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor) said the legal battle over the ruling would be lengthy. However, he said the struggle against it may be futile, as the Supreme Court previously supported same-sex marriage in a similar ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act.
“Regardless of whether or not we can get a stay or an appeal from the (Court of Appeals for the) Sixth Circuit, anyone who has read the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA needs to come to the conclusion that this case is a loser for Bill Schuette,” Irwin said.
Political Science Prof. Vincent Hutchings said the decision could have far-reaching effects at the University.
“It has a lot of positive effects on the University because it has implications for recruitments of faculty and staff,” he said.
Support for same-sex marriage has expanded since the ban was enacted in 2004, when Michigan residents voted to define marriage as between a man and a woman. At the time, approximately 59 percent of Michigan residents supported the same-sex marriage ban. A Michigan State University poll found earlier this month that 54 percent of Michigan residents support same-sex marriage.
Irwin said there is major support of same-sex marriage especially in Ann Arbor due to the comparatively large number of young voters.
“Marriage equality is very popular in Ann Arbor because of the large volume of young voters in and around our county, but also because people in this area have been socially progressive for a long time,” he said. “Ann Arbor has been a gay- and lesbian-friendly town for years, longer than I’ve been here, so I expect the reaction in Ann Arbor to be almost uniformly positive. But obviously some people out there still oppose marriage equality.”
Irwin added that support for same-sex marriage cuts across party lines for young voters. LSA senior Russell Hayes, chairman of the University’s chapter of the College Republicans, echoed this sentiment and voiced his support for the end of the ban.
“While I would have preferred the decision to have been made by Michiganders themselves or their elected representatives, I'm happy that I and so many others now have the same right to marry as straight Wolverines in the state of Michigan,” he wrote in an e-mail.
On the other hand, Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, said in a statement that the statement delegitimizes the viewpoint of the Michiganders who previously voted against same-sex marriage.
“This one political elitist put his own personal views above the will of the people, arrogantly ruling that all 2.7 million voters were 'irrational' in their common sense belief that the ideal environment for every child is having both a mother and a father committed to each other and to their children in marriage,” Glenn wrote in statement.
The Daily reported March 12 that the case focused on testimony from professors, economists and other scholars to determine the effects on children if raised by same-sex parents. University lecturer Mark Rosenbaum, Chief Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said the data clearly favored DeBoer and Rowse.
“There is no basis other than sheer animus against all LGBT individuals to prevent two people who love one another to say so or do so in the same ways as heterosexual couples,” Rosenbaum said in a March interview with The Daily.
— Daily News Editor Rachel Premack contributed to this story.
Correction appended: LSA senior Russell Hayes, chairman of the University’s chapter of the College Republicans, was incorrectly identified as the president of College Republicans and an LSA junior.