John M. Becker

BREAKING: Judge Strikes Down Michigan Marriage Ban, Rips Regnerus

Filed By John M. Becker | March 21, 2014 5:11 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: gay marriage, Mark Regnerus, marriage discrimination, marriage equality, Michigan, same-sex marriage

michigan-marriage-equality.jpgThis just in: U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman has struck down the state of Michigan's marriage discrimination amendment as unconstitutional. Friedman, who was appointed to the federal bench in 1988 by Republican saint President Ronald Reagan, did not stay his ruling, making Michigan the 18th state where same-sex couples have the freedom to marry.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

In a historic ruling that provided a huge morale boost to the gay-rights movement, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman today struck down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage, making it the 18th state in the nation to allow gays and lesbians to join in matrimony, just like their heterosexual counterparts.

In his 31-page ruling, Friedman heavily criticized the state's position that the will of the voters should have been upheld, noting that just because voters approve something doesn't make it right, especially when it violates the 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.

"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," Friedman wrote.

"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."

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an emergency request for stay of Friedman's ruling.

"In 2004 the citizens of Michigan recognized that diversity in parenting is best for kids and families because moms and dads are not interchangeable. 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," said Schuette.

According to Schuette, Friedman did not follow the trend sent by other federal judges handling similar cases across the country, Judge Friedman did not stay his ruling pending the outcome of appeal.

Same-gender couples in Michigan may be able to obtain marriage licenses as soon as Monday. In the nine months since the Supreme Court's ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, fourteen courts have struck down discriminatory marriage laws.

As regular Bilerico readers know, this is the DeBoer v. Snyder case, where the state of Michigan called discredited researcher-turned-anti-equality activist Mark Regnerus as an "expert witness" in its argument against marriage equality.

UPDATE: Friedman eviscerates Regnerus in his ruling, even going so far as to use quotation marks around the word "study" when referring to Regnerus's right-wing-funded, discredited New Family Structures Study that claimed same-sex couples make inferior parents:

"The court finds Regnerus's testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration. The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that his 2012 'study' was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder, which found it 'essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society' and which 'was confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study.'"...

"While Regnerus maintained that the funding source did not affect his impartiality as a researcher, the Court finds this testimony unbelievable. The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged." [Emphases mine.]

From the ruling:

michigan-marriage-ruling.png

Also from the ruling:

"[T]he state defendants' position suffers from a glaring inconsistency. Even assuming that children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than children raised by heterosexual married couples, the state defendants fail to explain why Michigan law does not similarly exclude certain classes of heterosexual couples from marrying whose children persistently have had "sub-optimal" developmental outcomes....

"Taking the state defendants' position to its logical conclusion, the empirical evidence at hand should require that only rich, educated, suburban-dwelling, married Asians may marry, to the exclusion of all other heterosexual couples. Obviously the state has not adopted this policy and with good reason. The absurdity of such a requirement is self-evident. Optimal academic outcomes for children cannot logically dictate which groups may marry."

More:

"Taken together, both the Windsor and Loving decisions stand for the proposition that, without some overriding legitimate interest, the state cannot use its domestic relations authority to legislate families out of existence."

Just an observation: with today's ruling, my home state of Wisconsin is now surrounded by freedom-to-marry states, a veritable island of discrimination in a sea of equality.

Copies of Judge Friedman's full ruling and Michigan's notice of appeal are after the jump, via Equality Case Files.

Also after the jump: watch the moment that the plaintiffs, Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, learn that they've won their case.

Video via WXYZ.

2:12-cv-10285 #151 Michigan Decision by Equality Case Files


2:12-cv-10285 #153 Notice of Appeal by Equality Case Files

Screengrab of Judge Friedman's ruling via Twitter.


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