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Trial ends in Michigan gay marriage case, now we wait for the judge's decision

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

The fate of Michigan's constitutional ban on gay marriage now rests with federal Judge Bernard Friedman.

After nine days of argument, the trial of Deboer v. Snyder ended this morning.

The highly anticipated federal trial began last Tuesday, Feb. 25, and now Judge Friedman says he will weigh all the evidence before making his decision.

He’s expected to take a couple of weeks to review the case.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are raising three children together and the women want to get married and jointly adopt each other’s kids.

Michigan’s ban on gay marriage prevents them from being recognized as a married couple and therefore prevents them from both having legal rights to the kids.

If something were to happen to one of them, the other would have no legal rights to the children under Michigan law.

Here's April DeBoer outside the courthouse after the trial ended:

Five other states have done away with their bans on gay marriage, and 17 states allow it.

Sarah Alvarez from our State of Opportunity team pointed out that there are a lot of legal rulings on gay marriage - perhaps the biggest being the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the “Defense of Marriage Act” – but she reports, the case in Michigan “could chart new territory.”

… because when the court wades in and starts making decisions about what it takes to be a good parent, it's a big deal for everyone. Social scientists who think it damages kids to be raised by two parents of the same gender will be pitted against social scientists who think that's fine. The judge will then take a look at the evidence and make a decision based on the social science and the law.

And that’s what happened in this case.

Each side trotted out experts testifying on the current state of social research. Both sides summed up with their closing arguments this morning.

The state argued that the will of the voters should not be denied, and that the research on same-sex parenthood is too new.

More from Oralandar Brand-Williams of the Detroit News:

Assistant state attorney Kristin Heyse said the will of Michigan voters, who approved the gay marriage ban in 2004, should not be ignored when Friedman is considering the case. “The voters made a decision to define [marriage] as between a man and woman,” said Heyse on Friday during closing arguments. “This court should not intervene with the (higher court) authority, and to do so would be a clear violation of law.” Heyse added: “Moms and dads are important, and children benefit from having both.” She said the research is too new on the issue of the outcome of children raised by gay parents to make any conclusion whether the gay marriage ban should be lifted.

And the attorney for April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse argued that Michigan’s ban on gay marriage denies people fundamental rights.

More from Tresa Baldas of the Detroit Free Press:

“There is a well-emerged awareness that denial of the right to marry is a form of discrimination that our society can no longer tolerate,” attorney Ken Mogill said during closing arguments in Michigan’s landmark gay marriage trial. “Today, marriage ... as a matter of law, is an entirely gender neutral institution." Mogill stressed: “The right to marry is a fundamental right. It should apply regardless of sexual orientation.”

Those agencies responsible for marriage licenses in the state have been preparing for a change for months should Judge Friedman decide that gay couples can marry in Michigan.

MPRN’s Rick Pluta reported on this last summer, saying state officials have been talking with county clerks about how to make their applications and the state’s official marriage license gender neutral:

“If the judge rules that same-sex couples may be married in our great state, than I would certainly welcome all loving couples to come before the Ingham County clerk and apply for their marriage license,” she said.

If Judge Friedman rules in favor of DeBoer and Rowse, the fighting won’t stop.

The state will ask the court to put off allowing gay marriages until all of the appeals are done.

On the other hand, some county clerks who issue marriage licenses have argued that they be allowed to start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples right away. They’ll ask that Michigan’s ban on gay marriage be put on hold until the appeals are over.

Mark Brush was the station's Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.
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