Michigan's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, a federal judge said Friday, striking down a law that was widely embraced by voters a decade ago in the latest in a series of similar decisions across the country.
Yes, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette—a Republican, of course—is asking the judge to freeze the decision. But...
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman did not suspend his decision while the Michigan attorney general pursues an appeal. That means clerks could start issuing licenses Monday unless a higher court intervenes....
"We'll be ready to go first thing. ... We open at 8 a.m.," said Barb Byrum, the clerk in Ingham County, home of the state capital.
The state of Michigan vehemently defended its gay marriage ban by claiming that same-sex couples were unfit parents. So please enjoy watching the plaintiffs, Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, who are raising three special-needs adopted children, discover they'd won:
US Judge Bernard A. Friedman took their side decisively, writing in his conclusion: "No court record of this proceeding could ever fully convey the personal sacrifice of these two plaintiffs who seek to ensure that the state may no longer impair the rights of their children and the thousands of others now being raised by same-sex couples."
But that's not all, in the 31-page decision, Judge Friedman completely thrashed the argument that same-sex couples are unfit parents:
The state defendants argued that the citizens of Michigan adopted the MMA [Michigan Marriage Act] on the premise that heterosexual married couples provide the optimal environment for raising children. The Court rejects this rationale for several reasons.
First, the evidence adduced at trial disproved this premise. Rosenfeld’s study shows that children raised by same-sex couples progress at almost the same rate through school as children raised by heterosexual married couples. In fact, the difference between the two groups is nearly immeasurable...
Second, the optimal child-rearing justification for the MMA is belied by the state’s own marriage requirements. The prerequisites for obtaining a marriage license under Michigan law do not include the ability to have children, a requirement to raise them in any particular family structure, or the prospect of achieving certain “outcomes” for children. By the same token, the state does not allow for the annulment of a marriage once a couple discovers it cannot conceive, or if the family structure changes, or if the couple’s children do poorly in school.
Third, contrary to the state defendants’ contentions, the MMA actually fosters the potential for childhood destabilization. For instance, in this particular case should either of the plaintiffs die or become incapacitated, the surviving non-legal parent would have no authority under Michigan law to make legal decisions on behalf of the surviving children without resorting to a prolonged and complicated guardianship proceeding. And in the event that a state court were to award guardianship of the surviving children to the non-legal parent, the guardianship would have to be renewed annually and would remain susceptible to the challenge of an interested party at any time. This, as Brodzinsky testified, places such children in a legally precarious situation and deprives them of “social capital.”
Fourth, the state defendants’ position suffers from a glaring inconsistency. Even assuming that children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than children raised by heterosexual married couples, the state defendants fail to explain why Michigan law does not similarly exclude certain classes of heterosexual couples from marrying whose children persistently have had “sub-optimal” developmental outcomes...
Finally, the Court rejects the “optimal environment” justification because that goal is simply not advanced by prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying. As Gates testified, there are thousands of same-sex couples currently raising thousands of children in Michigan, and these numbers have steadily increased over the past 20 years. Prohibiting gays and lesbians from marrying does not stop them from forming families and raising children. Nor does prohibiting same-sex marriage increase the number of heterosexual marriages or the number of children raised by heterosexual parents. There is, in short, no logical connection between banning same-sex marriage and providing children with an “optimal environment” or achieving “optimal outcomes.”
Bravo, your honor.