DETROIT – Michigan’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, a federal judge said Friday, striking down a law that was widely embraced by voters a decade ago in the latest in a series of similar decisions across the country.
But unlike cases in other states, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman did not suspend his decision while the Michigan attorney general pursues an appeal.
That means clerks could start issuing licenses Monday unless a higher court intervenes.
Friedman released his 31-page ruling exactly two weeks after a rare trial that mostly focused on how same-sex parenting affects children. The challenge was brought by two Detroit-area nurses originally seeking to overturn Michigan’s ban on joint adoptions by gay couples.
The judge noted that supporters of same-sex marriage believe the Michigan ban was at least partly the result of animosity toward gays and lesbians.
Many Michigan residents have religious convictions whose principles govern the conduct of their daily lives and inform their own viewpoints about marriage, Friedman said. Nonetheless, these views cannot strip other citizens of the guarantees of equal protection under the law.
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.
Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, asked a federal appeals court to freeze Friedman’s decision and prevent same-sex couples from marrying while he appeals the case.
The decision was filed in Detroit shortly after 5 p.m., when most county clerk offices were closed and couldn’t issue licenses.
We’ll be ready to go first thing. We open at 8 a.m., said Barb Byrum, the clerk in Ingham County, home of the state capital.
The women who brought the 2012 lawsuit, Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, are raising three adopted children with special needs. But they can’t jointly adopt each other’s children because that is tied exclusively to marriage in Michigan. They also want to get married.
It’s unbelievable, DeBoer said. 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. Attorneys for the state told the judge that they are great parents.