Marriage equality advocates in Michigan will have to wait until at least February of next year before learning whether or not their state’s ban on same-sex marriage will fall, after a federal judge ruled the legal challenge to the ban should go to trial.
As reported by the Detroit Free Press, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman delivered the ruling to a courtroom packed with marriage equality supporters and with dozens of same-sex couples waiting at local clerks’ offices ready to get married that day had the court struck the ban.
Michigan voters enacted a ban on same-sex marriage and same-sex adoptions in 2004 by adopting a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as “the union of one man and one woman.” In January 2012, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse filed a lawsuit initially only challenging the state’s ban on same-sex adoption but later added a challenge to the state’s same-sex marriage ban, arguing the bans unlawfully violate their federal constitutional rights to get married and adopt each other’s children. That issue will now be decided via a trial, similar to the trial that challenged California’s voter-driven ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8.
Attorneys for the State of Michigan defending the ban argued that the federal court need not intervene and decide the issue since Michigan voters had already spoken in 2004 with the ban. But thanks to the Supreme Court’s rulings in the challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, statewide bans like Michigan’s have come under legal fire as same-sex couples look to assert federal marriage rights in states that currently do not recognize marriage equality.
Currently, 13 states have marriage equality laws on the books, while at least six states offer some protections to same-sex couples. One of those states, Hawaii, could pass a marriage equality bill later this month via special session. New Jersey adopted a marriage equality law in 2012, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the measure, which is now before the New Jersey Supreme Court to decide.