Monday, April 27, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court to hear Michigan gay marriage case tomorrow

Posted By on Mon, Apr 27, 2015 at 11:20 AM

A Hazel Park couple's three-year court fight to win the right to marry will culminate Tuesday at the U.S. Supreme Court.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, who sued Michigan over the state’s same-sex marriage ban in 2013, sought a review of their lawsuit from the nation's highest court in January. 

The couple's journey dates back to 2012, when the couple first challenged a Michigan law that says only married couples and single people can adopt children. Rowse had legally adopted 4-year-old Nolan and 3-year-old Jacob; DeBoer adopted Ryanne, 3. But the couple realized that had no legal right to their partners’ children, if, in the worst case scenario, one of them died.

The federal judge who heard the case in Michigan, Bernard Friedman, said the issue at-hand was the state’s same-sex marriage ban. Then, last March, U.S. District Court Judge Friedman, overturned the ban. The following day, over 300 couples wed in four counties across the state, a move initially in limbo because, as Michigan Attorney General Schuette put it, "it is as if the marriages never existed." Schuette asked a judge in a court filing to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court consider the issue. (The marriages have since been certified as legal.)

Schuette's request to overturn Friedman's ruling was granted by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision that upheld Michigan's ban, finding that voters should ultimately have the final say on whether a state can prohibit same-sex marriage. 

In a nutshell: the appellate court sided with those who agree that voters can approve an amendment that enshrines discrimination into Michigan's Constitution. (The dissenting judge in the decision, Martha Daughtrey, righteously took her colleagues in the majority to task in a blistering 21-page dissent.) 

After the initial hearings before Judge Friedman, Schuette's office — whose initial arguments in favor of the ban leaned on refuted witnesses — reported it had spent at least $40,000 arguing the case. Asked in January by MT for an updated figure, a spokesperson said, "Costs aren’t typically tallied up by specific case because our staff attorneys work on a yearly salary basis, not by the hour like private practice attorneys, and the attorneys involved with this case work on many, many other cases at the same time."

The spokesperson continued: "This case is not a full-time job. In fact, our attorneys handle more than 40,000 cases per year, so they are always working on multiple cases at one time. Regardless, defending the State Constitution in court is part of the Attorney General's core responsibilities." A follow-up request to clarify how much the state has spent arguing on behalf of the state's ban on gay marriage was not returned. 

Now, on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case, which has been consolidated with other suits from Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky. A decision is expected in late June.

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