Michigan Gay-Marriage Ban Should Be Reversed, Court Told

Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution and should be struck down, a lawyer for a lesbian couple said at a federal court hearing in Detroit.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, a lesbian couple seeking to adopt each other’s children, contend a 2004 amendment to Michigan’s constitution conflicts with the equal protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution. The Michigan amendment was passed by popular vote.

“Marriage is a fundamental right,” Carole Stanyar, attorney for DeBoer and Rowse, argued today before U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman. “Fundamental constitutional rights should not be subject to popular vote.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the issue of same-sex marriage and Friedman said he won’t rule on the couple’s challenge until after the high court’s decision.

Joseph Potchen, attorney for the state, told Friedman that the Michigan amendment didn’t harm anyone’s rights.

“Equal protection and due process are not violated,” Potchen told the judge. “Sexual orientation is not a protected right.”

Adopting Sons

The plaintiffs contend DeBoer was blocked from adopting Rowse’s two sons and Rowse couldn’t adopt DeBoer’s daughter because of the Michigan Marriage Amendment. The law barring same-sex marriage denied them the adoption rights available to married couples as well as other protections including inheritance rights, they claim.

“Michigan has the worst laws in the country for gay people and their children,” Stanyar said today. “They have no hope of enhancing their rights in the political arena. No hope for change.”

Potchen asked Friedman to dismiss the lawsuit.

“Those are great arguments to be made before the Legislature,” Potchen told the judge.

“Under its sovereign authority, Michigan’s laws defining marriage as being between a man and a woman are valid and beyond federal constitutional challenge,” the state’s lawyers said in court papers. “The definition of marriage is fundamentally a state decision.”

The case is DeBoer v. Snyder, 12-cv-10285, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit).

To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Detroit at mcfisk@bloomberg.net; Steve Raphael in Detroit at sraphael5@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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