Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Michigan.
Current status of SSM in U.S.
District Court judge rules SSMs legal
Michigan. A few hundred couples marry.
The acronym "LGBT" used throughout this web site refers
to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community.
The acronym "SSM" refers to same-sex marriage.
2014-MAR-20: The story so far:
The current status of marriage for same-sex couples in the U.S. was:
- Loving, committed same-sex couples could marry in 17 states and the District of Columbia -- exactly one third of the political jurisdictions in the U.S.
- Same-sex couples married out-of-state have their marriages recognized in Oregon.
- Ohio recognizes marriages by same-sex couples in other states, but only after they die. (That is not a joke; it just sounds like one.)
- Since 2013-DEC-20, a succession of five District Court judges in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Virginia had reviewed and rejected their state's constitutional amendment that had banned same-sex marriage. The arguments presented at trial were similar:
- The plaintiffs' lawyers typically based their case on the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment requires the federal, state, and local governments to treat people equally. By extension, it also requires couples -- whether same or opposite sex -- to be treated equally. In any case of conflict between the U.S. Constitution and either a federal law, state law, or state constitutions, the U.S. Constitution has always ruled. In fact, a major function of the federal court system is to detect such conflicts and to declare the offending law or clause in the state constitution void and unenforceable.
- The defendant's lawyers based their case on the amendment to their state's constitution which banned same-sex marriage. Many of these amendment were stealth initiatives that had been promoted to the public as banning same-sex marriages only. However, they were actually written to ban not only same-sex marriages, but also civil unions, domestic partnerships, and any other recognition of same-sex relationships. The lawyers' arguments in Michigan's District Court were typically:
- That the people of their state had spoken by passing the amendment, and that the latter must be accepted as law no matter what the U.S. Constitution requires.
- That even though the majority of the public in the state currently supports same-sex marriage, the amendment is still valid,
- That the vote by the Michigan public to amend the state Constitution overrules the federal Constitution's equal protection clause. This is a novel belief that directly attacks the fundamental principles of federalism, but is widely held among religious and social conservatives.
The defendants also based their case on testimony by a group of religious and/or social conservatives who testified that, in their opinion, children need both a mother and a father in their family in order to properly thrive. The lawyers generally supported this belief by reference to the large-scale, but widely rejected, Regneurus study at the University of Texas. This was the largest study to date of whether children thrive in families led by a same-sex couple. Unfortunately, their conclusions were based on a sample size of two same-sex couples, and thus are essentially meaningless.
All of the other five District Courts listed above had issued rulings declaring their states' constitution's prohibition of marriages by same-sex couples null and unenforceable. Stays were quickly imposed by the states' District Courts or obtained from a higher court to halt or prevent loving committed same-sex couples from marrying, pending an appeal to their U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In the state of Utah, incompetence in the Attorney General's office delayed the stay and about 1,300 same-sex couples were able to rush through their marry before the stay was finally issued by the U.S. Supreme Court.
2014-MAR-21: District Judge Bernard A Friedman issued his ruling in the DeBoer v. Snyder
Judge Friedman, a President Reagan appointee, was the latest of six District Court judges, all of whom have issued a favorable ruling on same-sex marriage since 2013-DEC-20. His decision was issued late on Friday, MAR-21. Referring to the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, he wrote:
"... regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail." 1
According to the New York Times:
"The state, arguing that it would be risky to change the definition of marriage, cited studies concluding that children raised by same-sex couples had worse outcomes in life.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs described the scholars who appeared for the state as religiously motivated and part of a 'desperate fringe,' and subjected them to withering cross-examination. Judge Friedman agreed with the criticism, describing the state’s witnesses as 'unbelievable' and calling their studies deeply flawed.
He wrote with particular animus about the best-known — and most widely discredited — of the researchers, Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas. Mr. Regnerus was the author of a 2012 report that, he said, raised questions about the prospects for children of same-sex parents.
Judge Friedman, citing evidence that the study had been commissioned and paid for by conservative opponents of same-sex marriage, wrote, 'The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged'.
Judge Friedman in turn praised several scholars called by the plaintiffs, who described a virtual consensus in the field that other things like income and stability being equal, children fared just as well with same-sex parents." 1
Judge Friedman wrote:
"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."
Unlike most of the other District Court judges, Judge Friedman did not issue a stay of his ruling. Thus, in theory, same-sex couples could marry immediately in the state.
Judge Friedman's ruling is accessible on the Equality Michigan web site. 2
The County Clerks of Ingham, Muskegon, Oakland, and Washtenaw Counties, all of whom are elected Democrats and support same-sex marriage, 2 quickly responded, saying that they would follow the court ruling and issue licenses on the next day, a Saturday. unless a higher court took action to forbid them. Same-sex couples rushed to these four offices, and obtained at least 300 marriage licenses.
Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said:
"There was an opportunity [Saturday] when marriage for same-sex couples was legal. ... I couldn’t bring myself to force these couples who have waited so long to marry to wait until Monday morning. It’s been an awesome morning!" 3
Ann Watson and Susan Sherman of East Lansing have been together for over 23 years and had planned to go to the courthouse on Monday. Then Sherman received a tweet on her phone saying that weddings would start Saturday. She woke up her partner and their 16 year-old daughter, and headed out to the courthouse. They had planned on a regular wedding with lots of family and friends present. But they ended up with only their daughter present. Still, they are now married. If they had waited until Monday, a stay imposed by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Saturday, MAR-22, would have prevented them from marrying. 3
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Erik Eckholm, "Federal Judge Strikes Down Michigan’s Ban on Same-Sex Marriage," The New York Times, 2014-MAR-21, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
- Hon Bernard A. Friedman, "Civil Action No. 12-CV-10285," 2014-MAR-21, at: http://www.equalitymi.org/ This is a PDF file.
- Lisa Rein, "Hundreds of same-sex couples wed in Michigan before appeals court issues stay," Washington Post, 2014-MAR-22, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
Copyright © by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initially posted: 2014-MAR-23
Latest update: 2014-MAR-23
Author: B.A. Robinson