Michigan case could invalidate states’ anti-same sex marriage laws

By David Ferguson
Wednesday, July 3, 2013 15:43 EDT
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Lesbian couple via Shutterstock
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A Michigan federal judge has given the go-ahead for a case that could challenge state laws mandating that marriage be defined as being between a man and a woman. A Yahoo! News report said that the case could be the first to bring the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to bear on different states’ anti-LGBT marriage policies.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rouse are two female nurses who live together in Hazel Park, Michigan. The two women would like to jointly adopt their three children, but under the Michigan Marriage Amendment, passed by voter referendum in 2004, they cannot.

The couple took their fight to the Michigan government, which urged the state Supreme Court to dismiss the women’s case against the state, but on Monday, District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled that the case could go forward. The DOMA decision, he said, sheds new light on Michigan’s current jurisprudence on the topic of same sex marriage. Friedman, a Reagan appointee wrote:

Plaintiffs are prepared to claim Windsor as their own…And why shouldn’t they? The Supreme Court has just invalidated a federal statute on equal protection grounds because it “place[d] same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage.” Moreover, and of particular importance to this case, the justices expressed concern that the natural consequence of such discriminatory legislation would not only lead to the relegation of same-sex relationships to a form of second-tier status, but impair the rights of “tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples” as well. This is exactly the type of harm plaintiffs seek to remedy in this case.

However, the judge wrote, the state can use the Windsor ruling in its own defense. The Supreme Court ruled that states could have their own say in the matter and that the voter referendums passed in those states are not a federal issue.

Challenges are mounting in similar cases all over the country. Same sex couples are suing Nevada, Illinois, Hawaii and New Jersey for legal recognition of their marriages. Those states allow civil unions and domestic partnerships but not same sex marriage.

No date has been set for the opening of the Michigan hearings.

[image of lesbian married couple via Shutterstock.com]

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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