Michigan Marriage Case Begins

A Rare Case Among The Recent Pack

By Crystal A. Proxmire

Testimony in the historic case of DeBoer v. Snyder begins this week in Federal Court in Detroit as opening statements are set to start at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The case involves a Hazel Park lesbian couple that is suing the state and Oakland County, for the right to jointly adopt their children and to marry.

Jay Kaplan, attorney for the ACLU of Michigan's LGBT Project, spoke about the upcoming case in a conference call Feb. 20, putting it in context for community leaders and the media.

"What's very unique about the Michigan case is this is only the second time in terms of any marriage litigation that there's actually been a hearing where there will be examination of scientific studies and factual information to support these presumptions. Other than in California, with all these other Federal court decisions, the judges have just been relying on the documents they read, they've never taken testimony before. So this is a very significant case," Kaplan said.

The prosecution and the defense are bringing in experts from across the country to testify about studies that look at issues of same-sex parenting, and the effects of allowing same-sex couples the right to marry. The prosecution will try to show that LGBT couples suffer harm and discrimination by being denied Equal Protection under the Constitution of the U.S., and they will try to show that same-sex parents are just as fit to raise children as heterosexual ones. The State will use experts who oppose same-sex parenting and adoption, who will try to prove the premise that those relationships are inferior and against the interest of the state.

"I think it's one thing for a politician to make a statement in support of a discriminatory policy or to make a generalization about a group of people. It's another thing when you have to go before the court and you have to swear under oath and be able to back up those assumptions and those rationales behind your policy," Kaplan said.

In this case, even one of the defendants, Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown, supports the couple's right to marry and to adopt.

Kaplan said that he does "believe that there is going to be a favorable decision," but also cautioned people that a win does not necessarily mean equal marriage will happen right away.

Other states, including Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, have had marriage cases win in Federal District Court recently, but they have had "stays" issued, meaning that the resulting law is put on hold until it can be heard by the Appeals Court, and possibly even the U.S. Supreme Court. It is unclear which case will ultimately make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, and it's possible that the DeBoer case could be the one. Kaplan said there are at least four-dozen Federal and State cases involving marriage equality happening across the country.

"It's very clear that Judge [Bernard] Friedman wants to make sure that when he issues his decision that it can be backed up with a very strong factual record," Kaplan said. The testimony builds resiliency so that it will stand up to an appeal. He said that Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette will most likely appeal, and that he will ask for a stay.

A stay would mean that same sex couples would not be able to marry until a higher court ruled. Some have speculated that if Judge Friedman decides in favor of the couple and does not issue a stay, there could be a window of a couple of hours up to a couple of weeks in which to secure a marriage license. Kaplan said this is unlikely, and potentially problematic.

"What we saw in Utah is couples...who were able to get married during this window period and now their marriages are in limbo. The State of Utah said they would not recognize these marriages, whereas the Federal Government said they would, and now there's some litigation over the validity of these marriages," he said.

The number of states with same sex marriage has grown from seven to 17 in the time since Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer began their case in 2012, Kaplan said. They filed even before the U.S. Supreme Court had made their decision in the Windsor case. "So much progress is happening, and happening so fast," he stressed.

In Oregon, Virginia, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, and Nevada State Attorneys have declined pursuing appeals to cases that decided in favor of same sex couples.

Kaplan added that even though the DeBoer case gives Michigan couples hope, others in the LGBT community continue to work on changes at the legislative level. The National ACLU's "Out for Freedom" campaign is working with Republican office holders in several states to change their votes on access to marriage. Equality Michigan and other organizations are exploring the potential for a ballot initiative in 2016 to repeal Michigan's Constitutional Amendment barring same sex marriage.

Those watching the DeBoer case can expect up to eight days of testimony, and then there will likely be a break of hours to days, or maybe even weeks, before Judge Friedman issues his decision.

MI Marriage Trial

Michigan Same Sex Couples Demand Respect And Equal Treatment

Michigan Leaders React To Feds Recognition Of Marriages

MI Marriage: Schuette Asks For Full Appeals Court Review

The Stay Delayed Allows 315 Couples To Wed In State

Gay Marriage Defines Schuette's Reelection Campaign

Snyder Says Schuette Going Against Trend

Sixth Circuit Continues Stay

Michigan Marriage Ban Struck Down

Michigan Makes History With First Marriages

Elected Officials, Advocates Petition Schuette To Drop Marriage Aappeal

Pictures from Ingham County - Getting Married

Pictures from Oakland County Clerk's Office - Part 1

Pictures from the Oakland County Clerk's office - Part 2

Pictures from the Oakland County Clerk's Office - Part 3

Pictures from Washtenaw County

White Nationalist Group Files Brief Supporting AG's Appeal In Marriage Ruling

Discredited Witness Part Of Right-Wing Cabal

Schauer Celebrates Overturn Of Michigan Marriage Ban

Equality Michigan Circulating Petition to Drop Appeal

Why Are Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette Wasting Michigan Taxpayer Dollars On A Costly Appeal?

Michigan Marriage Ban Co-Author Goes 'Moral'

BTL's Wedding Expo: Like Pride in April

Snyder Says Marriages Invalid

Elected Officials, Advocates Petition Schuette To Drop Marriage Appeal

Request To Remove Stay Based On Process And Substance

Schuette Lies To Satisfy Political Base

DOCUMENTS: The decision, the stay, and more

BREAKING: Holder Asked To Recognize Michigan Marriages

Michigan Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

BREAKING: Sixth Circuit Court Of Appeals Issues Temporary Stay On Michigan Case

BREAKING: Same-Sex Couples Across Michigan Get Hitched

BREAKING: Judge Friedman Declares Michigan's Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

Judge Could Rule Late Today In Mich. Marriage Ban

Michigan Marriage Trial: And Now We Wait

Editor's Viewpoint: Our Long Journey To Justice

Federal Marriage Case Decisions Outside Michigan In Circuit Court of Appeals

Peers Distance Themselves As Regnerus Takes The Stand

Marriage Supporters, Protestors Brave Cold At Courthouse

Highlights From Michigan Same-Sex Marriage Hearing

Brown Says Schuette Instructed Clerks To Defy Court

Michigan Marriage Equality Trial Begins Second Week

Marriage Equality Trial Opens : Science v. Fear

Michigan Marriage Center Prepares State For The Possibility!

Michigan Marriage Case Begins

A Trial Full of Experts: Incredible and Not So Credible, In Hazel Park Case

like us on facebook follow us on twitter follow us on google+