DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A Stanford University professor is returning to the witness stand in a trial testing Michigan’s ban on gay marriage.
Michael Rosenfeld will be cross-examined Wednesday in Detroit federal court. He says he’s looked at national census data of children living with same-sex parents and finds their progress through school is the same as kids with heterosexual parents.
Two weeks have been set aside for testimony in a landmark trial that could overturn Michigan’s ban on gay marriage, the latest in a series of marriage-equality challenges across the country.
The case began in 2012 when Detroit-area nurses Jayne Rowse, 49, and April DeBoer, 42, sued to try to upset a Michigan law that bars them from adopting each other’s children. The case became even more significant when U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman invited them to add the same-sex marriage ban to their lawsuit.
Michigan’s constitutional amendment over gay marriage was approved by 59 percent of voters in 2004. To scratch the amendment, the judge would have to find that it’s “inconsequential” to have children raised by a man and a woman, Assistant Attorney General Kristin Heyse said in her opening remarks.
“This court should not be rushed to embrace a position that mothers and fathers are interchangeable,” she said.
The election result nearly a decade ago, Heyse said, “was not a whim of the few but a vote of the majority, the will of the people.”
Rowse and DeBoer claim the amendment violates their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. They are raising three adopted children with special needs at their Hazel Park home.
“Nothing says family like a marriage license,” DeBoer told reporters before entering the courthouse hand-in-hand with Rowse, her partner of eight years. They walked past more than a dozen people who marched peacefully on the sidewalk with signs declaring, “We support traditional marriage. One man, one woman.”
The couple’s attorney, Carole Stanyar, said she would present evidence to show there’s no rational basis to single out gays and lesbians who want to marry — a key legal standard in the case.
“We would like this to be the last trial in America where same-sex parents will have to defend themselves,” she told the judge.
Under questioning by Stanyar, David Brodzinsky, an expert in adoption and foster care and a former Rutgers University professor, noted that the American Psychological Association has said there’s no scientific basis for believing that gays and lesbians are unfit parents based on their sexual orientation.
“It’s not the gender of the parents that’s the key. It’s the quality of the parenting,” Brodzinsky testified Tuesday.
Brodzinsky added that kids will reap multiple benefits if their same-sex parents can marry.
“It affords them what sociologists call social capital, recognition,” Brodzinsky said. “This is a real family — we’re no different than anyone else.”
This is the first U.S. trial over a gay-marriage ban since a California trial in 2010, although federal judges in other ways recently have struck down similar bans in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia. At least 17 states and the District of Columbia now allow marriage by same-sex couples.
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