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Other Views: Strike down state ban on gay marriage

10:45 PM, Mar. 6, 2013  |  Comments
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U.S. Supreme Court justices will hear arguments late this month that the U.S. Congress and the voters of California violated the constitutional rights of gay Americans when they adopted laws banning the recognition of same-sex marriages. A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in either case could jeopardize Michigan's obnoxious constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

But we hope U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman beats justices to the punch and takes the opportunity to strike down Michigan's law this week.

Friedman is scheduled to hear arguments in a case in which two Oakland County women - both nurses and licensed foster parents - are challenging the Michigan law that prohibits them from jointly adopting three children who were either surrendered or abandoned at birth.

April DeBoer, a neo-natal intensive care nurse, and Jayne Rowse, an emergency room nurse, have been in a committed relationship for more than 10 years. One is the adoptive parent of two children, and the other has adopted a third child. They sued Michigan in federal court in January 2012, arguing that a state law that bars gay couples from joint adoptions violates their right to equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

But last spring, at Judge Friedman's suggestion (and over the objection of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette), the case was expanded to encompass a challenge to Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage. Today, Friedman will hear arguments for and against the constitutionality of Michigan's ban at a hearing he has scheduled to take place at Wayne University Law School, rather than in his smaller federal courtroom, to accommodate public interest in the case.

Gay plaintiffs have argued that the same-sex marriage bans enacted by Congress and California should be subjected to the heightened scrutiny courts typically require when the government targets minorities, such as African-Americans or women, who historically have been targets of illegal discrimination. In order to survive such scrutiny, the defenders of a challenged law must prove 1) that it serves a legitimate state interest and 2) that the government could not have achieved its objective by less intrusive means.

But Michigan's laws barring same-sex marriage and adoption fail to satisfy even the first half of that test. In separate licensing proceedings, the state has already recognized DeBoer and Rowse's competence to serve jointly as their children's foster parents; to deny them other parental and marital rights automatically available to opposite sex parents serves no interest other than to placate the irrational prejudices of homophobic Michiganders.

Judge Friedman should not allow a law that so fundamentally contradicts American notions of fairness and equality before the law to prevail another week. He should seize the earliest possible opportunity to strike down Michigan's irrational bans.

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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