Michigan could be the next state to legalize same-sex marriage upon the review of recent case hearings by a federal judge.
Last Friday concluded a series of arguments regarding the legality of same-sex marriage in the state of Michigan and the validity of a 2004 proposal that banned the practice, lasting two weeks. At the heart of controversy is whether same sex couples are able to be adequate parents.
Hazel Park residents April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse brought the case to court after the state denied them joint adoption of their three children. While the case began as a matter of changing the adoption process in Michigan, the lawsuit ultimately called into question the same sex marriage ban itself.
The state, represented by Attorney General Bill Schuette, is defending the voters’ 2004 decision to define marriage as one man and one woman.
Both sides presented data and statistics from numerous scholars, including professors and economists, to ascertain if children would be at a disadvantage if raised by same-sex parents. According to University lecturer Mark Rosenbaum, Chief Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, 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 2004, Michigan residents approved a ban on same-sex marriage with around 59 percent of voters favoring the measure. DeBoer and Rowse’s suit may overturn this law and raises the question whether initiatives are appropriate ways to make legislation.
Jay Kaplan, an attorney with the ACLU of Michigan, said he believes constitutionality should not be judged solely on majority opinion. He said the Founding Fathers created three branches of the U.S. Government to prevent such action.
“Our government, our laws, protect us from the tyranny of the majority and clearly that was a discriminatory prevision that was approved by a wide majority of voters in 2004,” Kaplan said. “We’ve seen over the last 10 years how attitudes towards LGBT people in terms of their support for the right to marry has significantly changed — I just think it was unconstitutional back in 2004, it is today and the decision to overturn it is exactly the right thing to do.”
Rosenbaum also warned against the dangers of majority opinion when dealing with governmental action. He said he believes the role of the courts is to represent the minority voice in legislation to distinguish between what is constitutional and what is discrimination.
“In the area of whether it’s race or whether it’s class or whether it is gender or whether it is sexual orientation: we need to be very careful in saying the majority’s vote is the final say so,” he said.
An Michigan State Unviersity poll found earlier this month that 54% of Michigan residents support gay marriage.
The federal judge will take weeks to issue his ruling.
Both the University’s chapter of the College Republicans and the American Family Association of Michigan were unavailable for comment.