U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman’s decision last week to overturn Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage is another step in the nation’s march to protect the domestic rights of all Americans.
In recent months, federal judges have overturned similar bans in Virginia, Texas, Utah, and Oklahoma. In Michigan, as in most or all these cases, the judges have ruled that preventing same-sex couples from marrying violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Within the last decade, same-sex marriages have been legalized in 17 states.
These gains, however, are not coming easy, or without pointed opposition. In Michigan, for example, Attorney General Bill Schuette disgraced himself and his office in the way he handled the case — something Michigan voters should remember in his bid for re-election.
Mr. Schuette was justified — perhaps even obligated — to defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban, which took the form of a state constitutional amendment approved by a majority of the voters in 2004. But instead of mounting a dignified constitutional defense, he squandered hundreds of thousands of dollars by dragging a series of dubious “experts” before the court.
In his opinion, Judge Friedman essentially reproved the state, declaring that its witnesses were “entirely unbelievable and unworthy of serious consideration.”
For some time, it has been clear that the U.S. Supreme Court will have to resolve this issue, probably fairly soon. When that happens, it seems likely that the high court will either rule that gay marriages are legal nationwide or leave that up to individual states. Last June, the court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and refused to prevent gay marriages from becoming legal in California.
Judge Friedman’s ruling was the correct one, as was his decision to have a trial, rather than to merely rule from the bench. This gave citizens a chance to assess the arguments in the case.
The plaintiffs were two lesbian nurses, certified foster parents who want to jointly adopt three high-risk children they cared for and whose lives they likely saved.
Praising them in his ruling, Judge Friedman said the state “lost sight of what this case is truly about: people.”
With this decision, the rights and dignity of all people in this nation continue to move forward.