Saturday, March 22, 2014

Michigan Makes It 18

And another one bites the dust.  From the Detroit Free Press:

In a historic ruling that provided a huge morale boost to the gay-rights movement, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman Friday struck down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage, making it the 18th state in the nation to allow gays and lesbians to join in matrimony, just like their heterosexual counterparts.

Just hours later, Washtenaw, Muskegon and Oakland counties announced they’ll open their clerk’s offices to issue marriage licenses on Saturday.

“Many Michigan residents have religious convictions whose principles govern the conduct of their daily lives and inform their own viewpoints about marriage,” Friedman wrote in his 31-page ruling. “Nonetheless, these views cannot strip other citizens of the guarantees of equal protection under the law.”

Friedman, who declared Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, went a step further than other judges across the country who have made similar decisions.

Friedman did not stay his ruling.

That prompted Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to file an emergency stay request to prevent gay couples from marrying right away. That includes the two plaintiffs in the case: Hazel Park nurses April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, who fought for the right to marry and adopt each other’s special needs children.

“It’s just amazing,” said DeBoer, who wiped tears and hugged her partner after learning of Friedman’s ruling. “This is what we’ve wanted for our family and families like ours …we are just so happy … We got our day in court and we won.”

Rowse was overwhelmed.

“We’re going to actually be a legalized family, a recognized family by everybody,” she said.

In his 31-page ruling, Friedman heavily criticized the state’s position that the will of the voters should have been upheld, noting that just because voters approve something doesn’t make it right, especially when it violates the Constitution.

“In attempting to define this case as a challenge to ‘the will of the people,’ state defendants lost sight of what this case is truly about: people.

“No court record of this proceeding could ever fully convey the personal sacrifice of these two plaintiffs who seek to ensure that the state may no longer impair the rights of their children and the thousands of others now being raised by same-sex couples,” Friedman wrote.

“It is the court’s fervent hope that these children will grow up to ‘understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.’

“Today’s decision is a step in that direction, and affirms the enduring principle that regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail.”

Read the ruling here.

What makes this ruling significant is that it came as the result of a trial.  There was evidence submitted to the court and witnesses were heard.  One of the witnesses for the state defending the ban was Mark Regnerus, a sociologist who is a big gun among the anti-marriage equality crowd for his “study” that children need a mommy and daddy to turn out as well-adjusted.  The judge basically destroyed his testimony in the ruling:

The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration. 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.’  While Regnerus maintained that the funding source did not affect his impartiality as a researcher, the Court finds this testimony unbelievable. The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged. Whatever Regnerus may have found in this ‘study,’ he certainly cannot purport to have undertaken a scholarly research effort to compare the outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples with those of children raised by heterosexual couples. It is no wonder that the NFSS has been widely and severely criticized by other scholars, and that Regnerus’s own sociology department at the University of Texas has distanced itself from the NFSS in particular and Dr. Regnerus’s views in general.

I am sure that we’re going to be hearing whines from the losers about “activist judges” and the “will of the people.”  Well, what this judge, appointed by Ronald Reagan,  has done is right a great wrong wrought by the voters of Michigan in the misshapen belief that an entire community should be denied equal rights under the Constitution.  States, whether by law or referendum, do not get to override the Constitution.