Judge: Trial Possible on Mich. Gay Marriage Ban
DETROIT -- A judge signaled Monday that a trial is possible to determine whether Michigan’s ban on gay marriage is constitutional, nearly nine years after voters approved it by a wide margin.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by nurses Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, who are challenging a law that bars them from adopting each other’s children as well as a 2004 constitutional amendment that defines marriage only as between a man and a woman.
Friedman said the Detroit-area women, along with state of Michigan attorneys who are defending the laws, probably found something to like last week in a major U.S. Supreme Court decision, which could influence the outcome of the case.
The court struck down a portion of a federal law barring government benefits to same-sex couples who are allowed to legally marry in their respective states. But the justices also said states have the power to define marriage.
"This court cannot say that plaintiffs’ claims for relief are without plausibility," Friedman said of Rowse and DeBoer. "Plaintiffs are entitled to their day in court and they shall have it."
He ordered all parties to court July 10 to discuss the future of the case and set a trial date.
Devin Schindler, a constitutional law expert at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Grand Rapids, said the judge still could make a ruling without a trial, after lawyers further develop the case through depositions, if necessary, in the weeks ahead.
The Michigan attorney general’s office said it was disappointed that Friedman didn’t dismiss the lawsuit but added: "We look forward to aggressively defending Michigan’s constitution."
Carole Stanyar, an attorney for Rowse and DeBoer, said the case is moving forward.
"The language is neutral in his order, but we’re on the good side of the motion to dismiss. We’re optimistic," she said.