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US Judge Hears Challenge To Mich. Gay Marriage Ban

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LANSING (WWJ/AP) - A federal judge is considering a U.S. constitutional challenge to a voter-approved 2004 amendment to the Michigan Constitution that ban’s same sex marriages.

Similar challenges are working their way through courts around the country.

In less than a month, federal judges in Oklahoma and Utah have struck down state bans on gay marriage for the same reason, concluding that they violate the U.S. Constitution’s promise of equal treatment under the law.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman in Detroit said in October that he needed to hear from experts on Feb. 25 before settling the fate of the Michigan Constitution’s clause that recognizes marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

He’s acting in a lawsuit brought by Detroit-area nurses Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, who seek to marry. The lesbian couple are raising three adopted children with special needs. They filed a lawsuit in 2012 hoping to strike down a state law that bars same-sex partners from adopting each other’s kids. The case was groundbreaking on its own, but then Friedman suggested challenging the gay marriage ban. If the ban is overturned, other laws, such as the adoption restriction, likely would fall, too.

Attorney Dana Nessel, co-counsel in the case, said she is hoping for a ruling that will be in favor of her clients.

“Michigan has one of the most draconian constitutional bans in the nation in that not only does it prevent same-sex marriage, but it also prohibits domestic partnerships or civil unions. So, there is literally no way in which same-sex couples can achieve any kind of legal recognition of their relationships in the state of Michigan,” Nessel told WWJ Newsradio 950.

A constitutional amendment declaring marriage as between a man and a woman was approved by 59 percent of Michigan voters in 2004.

Attorneys for DeBoer and Rowse say the amendment violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars states from treating people differently.

“Here and now, as a matter of constitutional law as well as of social policy, the time for … dehumanization is past,” the couple’s lawyers said in a court filing.

RELATED: Gay Marriage Vote May Come To Michigan In 2016

TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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