Jayne Rowse, April DeBoer
Michigan: Federal Judge Strikes Down Marriage Ban

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com March 21 2014 5:22 PM ET

A federal judge has ruled that Michigan's 2004 ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman comes in a case brought by couple Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, two nurses from the Detroit area who have been together for more than a decade and have three children. They argued that the ban is a violation of the U.S. Constitution's equal protection and due process clauses.

Although court-watchers expected a stay on any ruling that struck down the ban, Friedman's ruling did not appear to include such a delay on its implementation, prompting Equality Michigan to announce that same-sex couples in Michigan can begin marrying immediately. In a Facebook post Friday afternoon, the statewide LGBT group noted that most county clerks' offices were already closed for the weekend but encouraged couples to contact their local clerks' offices immediately, as the window for immediate legal marriage equality is likely to be short, given the attorney general's plans to appeal the decision. 

Michigan's attorney general, Bill Schuette, has already filed an emergency appeal for a stay, reports the Detroit Free Press. (Schuette, a Republican, kicks off his reelection campaign next week, the Associated Press reports, and is expected to face Mark Totten, who is campaigning for the Democratic nomination.)

In his decision, Friedman also ruled that findings from Mark Regnerus's often-rebuked study about same-sex families were "entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration."

Regnerus's 2012 study, published as the "New Family Structures Study," claims that children of mothers in same-sex relationships were more likely to be unemployed or underemployed. Children with fathers in same-sex relationships were more likely to have been arrested.

Friedman added, "The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that his 2012 'study' was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder, which found it 'essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society' and which 'was confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study.'"

Michigan's ban was passed as part of the 10 that were used to help rally socially conservative voters to the polls in 2004 by the George W. Bush campaign for president. It passed with 59 percent of the vote.

Judges have ruled in favor of gay and lesbian plaintiffs recently in Virginia, Kentucky, Texas, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah. Human Rights Campaign executive director Chad Griffin applauded the decision, saying it was all part of the momentous state-by-state movement to establish legal marriage equality, essentially reversing the work done a decade ago during the Bush campaign.

"It’s clear that the law is on the side of LGBT Americans, and we are moving with increasing momentum toward the day when all loving and committed same-sex couples receive the dignity and respect they deserve,” said Griffin.