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Protesters from both sides descend on Detroit court in landmark gay marriage case

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Activists on both sides of the marriage equality issue protested outside Detroit’s federal courthouse Monday, site of an ongoing court case that will decide the legality of Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban.

The case involves a Detroit area lesbian couple, Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer. They’re seeking the right to jointly adopt the three children they’ve been raising together.

But the case has evolved into a challenge of Michigan’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Marriage equality advocates say that amendment violates the US constitution’s equal protection clause.

Most of the protesters who turned out to support the ban with “praise, worship, and prayer” were affiliated with various churches who object to same-sex marriage, and fear the cases poses a threat to their “God-given right of religious freedom.”

But Flint-based pastor Stacy Swimp says it’s also a matter of protecting voting rights, because Michigan voters overwhelmingly chose to ban same-sex marriage in 2004—and no judge “has the right to arbitrarily overrule the result of an election.”

“Everybody in office in the United States of America needs to understand, you are there to represent the American people,” Swimp says. “You are not there to represent yourselves or special interest groups, be it homosexuals, lesbians…any particular special interest group.”

Such sentiments sparked disbelief from GLBT activists, who also demonstrated in support of Rowse and DeBoer Monday morning.

“Of all the issues that these ministers could be working on, such as unemployment, hunger, disease, or crime, it is almost unbelievable that they choose to picket and pray against marriage equality in Michigan,” said former Ferndale mayor Craig Covey, the first openly gay mayor in Michigan. “Their same arguments were used in the 1950s by racists in opposition to mixed racial marriages.”

Swimp says defending “traditional marriage” is particularly important in the historically “socially conservative” African-American community.

However, polls show support for same-sex marriagehas surged among blacks—and nearly every other demographic—in just the past several years.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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