The Herald Bulletin

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March 21, 2014

Judge strikes down Michigan's ban on gay marriage

DETROIT — Michigan's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, a federal judge said Friday as he struck down a law that was widely embraced by voters a decade ago — the latest in a recent series of decisions overturning similar prohibitions across the country.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman released his 31-page ruling exactly two weeks after a rare trial that mostly focused on the impact of same-sex parenting on children.

He noted that supporters of same-sex marriage believe the Michigan ban was at least partly the result of animosity toward gays and lesbians.

"Many Michigan residents have religious convictions whose principles govern the conduct of their daily lives and inform their own viewpoints about marriage," Friedman said. "Nonetheless, these views cannot strip other citizens of the guarantees of equal protection under the law."

The decision was filed shortly after 5 p.m. in Detroit, when most county clerk offices were closed. Clerks issue marriage licenses in Michigan.

Attorney General Bill Schuette said he would immediately ask a federal appeals court to freeze Friedman's decision and prevent same-sex couples from marrying while he appeals the case.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia issue licenses for same-sex marriage. Since December, bans on gay marriage have been overturned in Texas, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia, but appeals have put those cases on hold.

Two Detroit-area nurses, Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, want to get married, but the original purpose of their 2012 lawsuit was to overturn Michigan's ban on joint adoptions by same-sex couples.

They are raising three adopted children with special needs at their Hazel Park home. But they can't jointly adopt each other's kids because joint adoption in the state is tied exclusively to marriage.

Attorney Dana Nessel read portions of the decision on live TV at the kitchen table in the DeBoer-Rowse home.

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