A federal judge announced Wednesday that he'll hold a trial in February to hear formal arguments for and against allowing same-sex couples to marry in Michigan, reports the Associated Press.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman surprised attorneys representing the state and a lesbian couple who are seeking to adopt one another's children when he announced that the case will go to trial, since the judge wants to hear from experts about whether there's a legitimate state interest in denying same-sex couples the right to marry.
"I wish I could give you a definitive ruling," Friedman said at Wednesday's hearing, according to the AP. "There are fact issues that have to be decided."
The judge was expected to issue a ruling based solely on legal briefs filed and arguments from the attorneys representing the state and the couple but instead announced that the case will go to trial February 25, reports the AP.
The legal challenge was initially filed on behalf of Jayne Rowse, 49, and April DeBoer, 42 — a lesbian couple together for eight years who wanted to legally adopt each other's children, not challenge the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which voters approved in 2004. But last year Judge Friedman encouraged the couple to refile their suit to challenge the constitutional amendment, which forbids the state from recognizing any union other than that of one man and one woman "as a marriage or similar union for any purpose."
While the federal case in Michigan won't be debated until February, state lawmakers have already introduced a package of bills to repeal Michigan's marriage amendment and allow the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.