Michigan Court Strikes Marriage Restriction

I’ve only a moment but I wanted to post a quick update here.  A couple of weeks ago I was following the hearing in Michigan where the state bar on marriage for same-sex couples was being reviewed.   You’ll find a series of posts about the case, really for two reasons.

First, like many if not all of the marriage cases, the MI challenges was (in part) about marriage and children.   The plaintiffs were two women raising children.  Because they could not marry they could not adopt each other’s children–thus each child had only one legal parent.   The women initially challenged Michigan’s refusal to let them adopt each other’s children and did not seek to marry.   The judge suggested adding the question of whether the root problem was their inability to marry.  (He reasoned that if they could marry then, under MI law, they could coadopt.)   In any event, by the time the case came to trial it was, from the plaintiffs’ point of view, about marriage and children.

And from the state’s point of view the case was also about marriage and children.   Michigan, like most states, defended the restriction on marriage by arguing that heterosexual married couples were ideal parents and the state had an interest in promoting this optimal situation for children    Thus, from the defendant’s point of view as well, the case was about marriage and children.

As I said, in this regard the case was like many of the marriage cases that have cropped up around the country.   But the Michigan case was also unusual–and this is really why I spent so much time with it.   The judge decided to hear live testimony rather than deciding the case on paper.   So witnesses–expert witnesses from a variety of fields–testified and were cross-examined.   That’s quite unusual, really.  (It was also the case in the CA marriage case of some years back–the one spawned by Proposition 8.)

Of particular importance was the evidence presented by the state in support of its position that lesbian/gay parents were suboptimal.   The state relied heavily on a study by Mark Regnerus that was published a couple of years ago and Dr. Regnerus testified (and was cross-examined.)

All this by way of introducing what you likely already know:  The court issued its decision yesterday afternoon and it struck down the MI restriction on access to marriage.   You can read the opinion itself if you prefer.   As you can see, the court was less than impressed by the defendants’ witnesses.   The judge declined to stay his ruling and within a few hours marriage licenses were issued, although the Sixth Circuit has now granted a stay.   (Remarkably, all the states within the Sixth Circuit (Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Michigan) now have had their restrictive marriage statutes struck down by federal district courts within the last several months.)

There’s more to say here–but since I’ve been busy (and hence silent here) for a bit,  I wanted to get a quick note up for those who, like me, followed the Michigan trial.


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