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Judge: No immediate ruling on Michigan’s gay marriage ban

Thursday, March 7, 2013

DETROIT — A judge said Thursday that a lesbian couple seeking to jointly adopt children made a “compelling” case Michigan’s gay marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution, but he wants to wait for guidance from the Supreme Court before deciding whether to throw it out.

Judge Bernard Friedman heard arguments Thursday on a lesbian couple’s challenge to a state law that bars them from jointly adopting children.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman heard arguments from the two Detroit-area nurses who filed a lawsuit last year attacking a Michigan law that prohibits them from jointly adopting children because they’re not married. At Friedman’s suggestion, they expanded their challenge to the gay marriage ban approved by 58 percent of Michigan voters in 2004.

But Friedman said he would benefit from seeing how the U.S. Supreme Court handles cases involving a gay marriage ban in California as well as the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Arguments are scheduled later this month in Washington.

An immediate ruling in Michigan “would not be fair to either side,” Friedman said while hold ing court in front of students at Wayne State University law school.

“They’re going to give us something to hang our hat on,” he said of the Supreme Court.

Assistant Attorney General Joseph Potchen said the two women, Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, are doing a “wonderful job” raising three young adopted children. But he said the Legislature or the ballot box, not a federal court, is the appropriate forum for their opposition to laws that affect same-sex couples.

“That’s what democracy is all about,” Potchen told the judge.

But an attorney for the women, Carole Stanyar, said “fundamental constitutional rights” can’t be settled by popular vote.

With same-sex marriage, civil unions and joint adoption prohibited in Michigan, gays and lesbians in the state are treated as “second-class citizens,” Stanyar told the judge in arguing the ban violates the Equal Protection Clause in the U.S. Constitution.

“Same-sex relationships are no different than h eterosexual,” she argued. “They’re grounded in love, commitment. … This is the defining civil rights issue of our time, the last remaining group in our society denied equal protection.”

Rowse, 48, has two adopted sons, and DeBoer, 41, has an adopted daughter. If either woman died, the other would not be instantly recognized as the legal parent of the remaining children under Michigan law, even if instructions were spelled out in a will.

After the hearing, Rowse said she would have preferred an immediate decision from the judge but she can wait.

“We’ve waited over a year at this point,” she said. “Another few months won’t make a difference.”

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6 more reader comments:

  1. Makes sense. But he must rule along the same lines as the Supreme Court. It will prob be June or July before a ruling is issued.

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 9:48am
  2. Too afraid to do what is right? Instead going to wait and hide behind the SCOTUS decisions. What happens if they come back with their bing no grounds for either case? Will this judge postpone until their are grounds?

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 9:53am
  3. If that happens, Jeremy Watson, it will leave the issue itself in limbo. Then the judge can rule as he sees fit.

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 9:57am
  4. trying to ban love, I can’t wait till it’s illegal, then those who are anti-love will just die off

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 10:02am
  5. dragging his feet, it’s amazing how much feet dragging it comes to when it comes to “legalizing love”

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 10:04am
  6. What a coward!

    Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 11:58am