U.S.

Judge strikes down Michigan's ban on gay marriage

Not clear if same-sex unions can begin immediately; state attorney general has called for decision to be stayed

Traditional marriage supporters protest next to gay marriage supporters in front of the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Detroit on March 3.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

A federal judge has struck down Michigan's ban on gay marriage, the latest in a series of decisions overturning similar laws across the U.S.

Judge Bernard Friedman ruled Friday after a trial that mostly focused on the impact of same-sex parenting on children. Two nurses who have been partners for eight years claimed the ban violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution.

It was not clear if gay marriages could begin immediately.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said he was filing a request with a federal appeals court to suspend Friedman's decision and prevent same-sex couples from marrying.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia issue licenses for same-sex marriage. Since December, bans on gay marriage have been overturned in Texas, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia, but appeals have put those cases on hold.

The couple at the center of the case, Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, want to get married, but the original purpose of their 2012 lawsuit was to overturn Michigan's ban on joint adoptions by same-sex couples.

“Our family is ecstatic. We have waited so long for the day when I could call Jayne my legal wife and when both of us could have peace of mind knowing our three children would finally have two legal parents. Knowing that day will soon be upon us means the world to us," DeBoer said.

They are raising three adopted children with special needs, but they couldn't jointly adopt each other's children because joint adoption in the state is tied exclusively to marriage.

Rowse, 49, and DeBoer, 42, didn't testify, and the trial did not focus on their relationship. In fact, attorneys for the state told the judge that they are great parents.

Instead, the state urged the judge to respect the results of a 2004 election in which 59 percent of voters said marriage in Michigan can only be between a man and a woman. Conservative scholars also questioned the impact of same-sex parenting on children.

But experts testifying for Rowse and DeBoer said there were no differences between the children of same-sex couples and those raised by a man and a woman.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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