Federal judge strikes down Michigan’s gay marriage ban

Posted at 4:08 PM, Mar 21, 2014
By Greg Botelho


(CNN) — A federal judge on Friday ruled that Michigan’s prohibition on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution, ordering the state to stop enforcing the ban.

“Today’s decision … 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,” U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman wrote.

Michigan is the latest state in which federal judges have struck down state constitutional bans on gay marriage.

Similar rulings have been issued in Texas, Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Utah, though in most of those cases the judges have put off enforcement of their decisions until higher courts can weigh in.

But Friday’s decision opens the door for same-sex couples to get marriage licenses in Michigan in the very near future, pending appeal.

The Michigan attorney general said he filed a request for the order to be stayed and appealed.

Like those other rulings, Friedman said Michigan’s ban violates the Equal Protection Clause prescribed in the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Voters in Michigan and 10 other states passed state constitutional amendments in fall 2004 restricting “marriage or (a) similar union” to between one man and one woman.

Whether homosexual couples should be allowed to wed like heterosexual ones was a hot-button issue then and in subsequent years, with polls showing that most Americans favored restrictions.

But public opinion shifted over time. An ABC News/Washington Post survey released earlier this month found that 59% of Americans favor allowing gay or lesbian couples to legally wed.

Michigan’s amendment, specifically, states the rationale for its restrictions is “to secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children.”

In his ruling, Friedman said, “The court finds the (Michigan Marriage Amendment) impermissibly discriminates against same-sex couples in violation of the Equal Protection Clause because the provision does not advance any conceivable state interest.”

The plaintiffs in the Michigan case, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, filed a lawsuit in part because Michigan law also “restricts adoptions to either single persons or married couples.” They had hoped to jointly adopt three children under their care.

Friday’s ruling, then, would seem to open the door to same-sex couples jointly adopting children, since now they could be legally married.

In the ruling, Friedman cited the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions last June rejecting parts of the Defense of Marriage Act while ruling same-sex spouses legally married in a state may receive federal benefits.

The justices didn’t go as far as saying that all states must allow such marriages to take place within their borders, but a number of lower federal courts did subsequently step in to the fray.

™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.