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Harvard professor testifies in Day 4 of Mich. same-sex marriage trial

Saturday, March 1, 2014
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WJBK-TVJayne Rowse (left) and April DeBoer  are plaintiffs in a challenge to Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage.

WJBK-TV
Jayne Rowse (left) and April DeBoer are plaintiffs in a challenge to Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage.

DETROIT — A Harvard University professor testified on Friday for two women challenging Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Nancy Cott says Michigan is falling behind other states by failing to recognize or allow same-sex marriage. She’s a historian who has studied marriage in America.

Michigan voters banned gay marriage in 2004, but two Detroit-area nurses — April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse — are challenging the state’s ban, which was approved by 59 percent of voters in 2004.

Rowse, 49, and DeBoer, 42, sued in 2012 to try to overturn a law that bars them from adopting each other’s children, but the case was expanded when U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman’s invited couple to amend their suit to challenge the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, “the underlying issue.”

Rowse and DeBoer will not be testifying, although the state agreed with a statement read into evidence that describes them as “responsible and caring parents” who are providing a loving home to their children.

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University of Michigan law professor Vivek Sankaran, who has much experience with the state’s foster-care system, testified earlier in the week that more children would be adopted if same-sex couples had the same joint-adoption rights as married heterosexual couples.

It 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.

The state attorney general’s office will start presenting witnesses Monday. The state has defended the constitutional amendment as a way to promote family stability through households led by a man and a woman.

Follow the case: DeBoer v. Snyder.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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