News & Politics

Marriage equality ruling in Michigan ushers in early spring

At the end of the day Friday, a federal judge in Michigan struck down that state’s gay marriage ban as unconstitutional, making it the 18th state (plus D.C.) to recognize same-sex marriage:

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

Michigan State Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a challenge with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, asking that District Judge Friedman’s ruling be stayed. That stay will be in temporary effect until Wednesday, so as to allow “a more reasoned consideration of the motion.” The AG’s spokeswoman anticipates the stay will be upheld and made permanent, aligning Michigan with Texas, Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia, each of which has since December struck down marriage bans, and each of which has seen stays placed on the rulings, pending their appeal in various higher courts.

In Michigan, the stay came after some 323 licenses were issued to couples, with dozens and dozens getting married on the spot by county clerks. Those marriages now are in a legal limbo.

PHOTO CREDIT: ASSOCIATED PRESS

JAYNE ROWSE, APRIL DEBOER, AND FAMILY [PHOTO CREDIT: ASSOCIATED PRESS]

The trial – brought by Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, two nurses and foster parents raising three special needs kids whom they cannot jointly adopt – rested largely on arguments about the fitness of same-sex parents. U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman not only found in their favor, but issued a stinging rebuke against the junk science used to argue against LGBT parents and in defense of the ban.

University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus  – darling of the homophobic right, but increasingly distanced by his UT colleagues – was brought in to testify against Rowse and DeBoer and all same-sex parents, citing his widely discredited “New Family Structures Study.”  In his findings of fact, Judge Friedman wrote, as have judge after judge before him, that the plaintiffs’ expert testimony soundly established that “a person’s child-rearing skills is unrelated to the person’s gender or sexual orientation” and that “longevity rates among cohabiting same-sex couples are on a par with their heterosexual married counterparts.”

Regarding the Regnerus study, Judge Friedman had this to say:

“The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration. The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that his 2012 ‘study’ was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder, which found it ‘essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society’ and which ‘was confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study.’ … While Regnerus maintained that the funding source did not affect his impartiality as a researcher, the Court finds this testimony unbelievable. The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged.”

At which point, I think all that’s left to note is: *judge drops mic*.

As you might imagine, many of us were very, very glad to see Regnerus receiving his due:

kendell-regnerus

If you’re interested in digging deeper into the whole mess, the Human Rights Campaign has assembled a mass of info about Regnerus,  his junk science, how it was funded, and how it’s being used in the service of cases across the country.

What’s next? These nearly half-dozen struck-down bans – TX, UT, OK, VA, and now MI – will need to work their way through the appeals process. The Supreme Court may eventually rule in some of the cases, or they may demur, leaving the Circuit Court rulings to stand.  Wherever the rulings finally roll to a stop, the impact is likely to be far-reaching, especially for regions currently bereft of LGBT family recognition. Rulings are expected in the 10th Circuit, which includes Wyoming and Kansas, and the 4th, which includes the Carolinas and West Virginia.  These join some 50 cases currently wending their ways up through various appeals courts, reaching the U.S. Supreme Court as early as this time next year.

Meanwhile, many are calling the upcoming season of court rulings “marriage spring.” May a thousand flowers bloom.

Read Judge Friedman’s ruling in its entirety here.

 

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One Comment

  1. I love that the judge put “study” in quotation marks.

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