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Michigan's gay marriage ban struck down

DeBoer Rowse Adoption Legal Fund
April DeBoer, left, and Jayne Rowse sued the state to gain joint adoption rights to their children. The judge expanded the case to include the state's same-sex marriage ban.

Update 8:27 am:

Rick Pluta reports from Ingham County that the first marriage there was performed at 8:05 am.

7:21 am Saturday:

Now four counties – Washtenaw, Oakland, Muskegon and Ingham – plan to open this morning to issue marriage licenses. Come back for updates from our reporters in the field.

Update 11 pm Friday:

The first wedding ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples in Michigan could happen tomorrow, unless an appeals court issues an order to delay a court ruling. That rulingcame late today from U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman in Detroit, who said Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In the Detroit suburb of Ferndale tonight, April DeBoer and her partner, Jayne Rowse, were met with cheers, hugs, and tears as they greeted supporters and reporters at Affirmations, an LGBT community center in Ferndale.

DeBoer and Rowse sued the state of Michigan to overturn the same-sex marriage ban in the state constitution.

Asked about their plans, DeBoer said she and her partner “want to take advantage of what’s been offered to us and families like ours, but at this time what we’re going to answer is, we’re going to get married when we can stay married.”

That ambiguity persists, despite a court decision that rejected pretty much every argument the state made to defend the amendment approved by almost 60 percent of Michigan voters 10 years ago.

Judge Friedman called the state’s lead witness, Mark Regnerus, “entirely unbelievable.” Regnerus is the author of a controversial and widely debunked sociological study that found children raised in households led by same-sex couples fare worse than children raised by married, biological parents. Rather, Friedman said, more than 150 studies suggest no scientific basis to conclude that children raised by same-sex parents fare worse than those raised by heterosexual parents.

That was key to this case, because DeBoer and Rowse said the marriage ban violated the civil rights of three special-needs kids they’re raising together and would like to jointly adopt.

DeBoer told supporters the case has always been about protecting their family. “It’s not about (our) relationship. This is about ensuring that our children will remain together, no matter what happens to her and I.”

There is still a question about if and when DeBoer and Rowse and other same-sex couples can get married. That’s because Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette wasted no time asking the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to issue a stay.

“We filed an emergency motion and we’re hopeful they’ll review it as soon as possible,” said Joy Yearout, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s communications director.  Yearout says the attorney general believes Michigan voters have already spoken on the question of same-sex marriage.

“They decided this because moms and dads are not interchangeable,” said Yearout. “The Michigan voters enshrined that decision in the state constitution and it’s Attorney General Schuette’s belief that their will should stand and be respected.”

Some county clerks, including Washtenaw County Clerk Larry Kestenbaum, are making arrangements to open tomorrow to issue marriage licenses and will waive the three-day waiting period. Others are waiting to see what the Sixth Circuit might do before deciding whether to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples when they open their doors Monday morning.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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