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Michigan Ban On Same-Sex Marriage Declared Unconstitutional

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DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The state of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage has been struck down.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman made the ruling Friday afternoon in Detroit federal court after a rare two-week trial that mostly focused on the impact of same-sex parenting on children.

Friedman declared that the same-sex marriage ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. [READ RULING]

County clerks have said they’ll be ready, almost immediately, to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples should the law change but the decision came shortly after 5 p.m., when most of the county clerk offices in Michigan were closed.

“It is an honor to join couples in marriage and I look forward to the opportunity for all loving couples to marry in our great state,” Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum told WWJ Newsradio 950 on Thursday.

Michigan becomes the 18th state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage, allowing gays and lesbians to marry, identical to hetrosexual marriages.  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.

Talking to WWJ earlier this week, two local constitutional law experts said they believed the state’s ban would be overturned as the courts catch up with Americans’ evolving views.

Those opposed to same-sex marriage believe marriage should only be between one man and one woman — many for religious reasons. The trial, though, has been dominated by testimony from social scientists and other experts about research, or a lack of research, on children and same-sex households.

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.

“It’s unbelievable,” DeBoer said on television. “We got our day in court. We won.”

Rowse, 49, and DeBoer, 42, didn’t testify, and the trial had nothing to do with their relationship. In fact, attorneys for the state told the judge that they are great parents.

Instead, the state urged the judge to respect the results of a 2004 election in which 59 percent of voters said marriage in Michigan can only be between a man and a woman. Conservative scholars also questioned the impact of same-sex parenting on children.

But experts testifying for Rowse and DeBoer said there were no differences between the kids of same-sex couples and the children raised by a man and woman. And the University of Texas took the extraordinary step of disavowing the testimony of sociology professor Mark Regnerus, who was a witness for Michigan.

Attorney General Bill Schuette said he was immediately filing a request with a federal appeals court to suspend Friedman’s decision and prevent same-sex couples from immediately marrying

Michigan’s gay marriage ban was passed by voters in 2004.

Judge Friedman was nominated by President Ronald Reagan as a federal judge in the Eastern District of Michigan in February 1988.

Stay with WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBSDetroit.com for more on this breaking story.

 

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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