Michigan Ban on Gay Marriage Recognition Struck Down
It's another victory for unions in Michigan. A federal judge has struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage recognition, meaning gay couples can form a union of two people legally acknowledged by the government. Get it? Get it? Because, you know, "unions"?
Anyway, it's getting harder to write these kinds of posts without just taking an old one and replacing the state. U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, after a two-week trial, has declared that Michigan's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage recognition is unconstitutional.
The trial revolved around whether the state had any legitimate interest in banning same-sex marriage recognition, which meant experts were trotted out to talk about studies about parenting and children to fight out this debate over who raises children best. No, I don't believe anybody argued that even if heterosexuals were better parents, it doesn't justify government involvement. The judge does note in his ruling, though, that the state is not permitted to evaluate the parenting abilities of heterosexual couples before granting them licenses:
Even today, the State of Michigan does not make fertility or the desire to have children a prerequisite for obtaining a marriage license. As defendant Lisa Brown testified, Michigan county clerks are not authorized to consider a couple's stability, criminal record, ability to procreate, parenting skills, or the potential future outcomes of their children before issuing a marriage license. … County clerks may only evaluate the age and residency of the license applicants and whether either of the applicants is currently married.
Controversial sociologist Mark Regnerus (whom I've written about here) was brought in to trot out his problematic study to argue that heterosexual parents were better. The judge took a dim view of the study and questioned Regnerus' impartiality:
While Regnerus maintained that the funding source did not affect his impartiality as a researcher, the Court finds this testimony unbelievable. The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged. Additionally, the NFSS is flawed on its face, as it purported to study "a large, random sample of American young adults (ages 18-39) who were raised in different types of family arrangements" (emphasis added), but in fact it did not study this at all, as Regnerus equated being raised by a same-sex couple with having ever lived with a parent who had a "romantic relationship with someone of the same sex" for any length of time. Whatever Regnerus may have found in this "study," he certainly cannot purport to have undertaken a scholarly research effort to compare the outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples with those of children raised by heterosexual couples. It is no wonder that the NFSS has been widely and severely criticized by other scholars, and that Regnerus's own sociology department at the University of Texas has distanced itself from the NFSS in particular and Dr. Regnerus's views in general and reaffirmed the aforementioned APA position statement.
The judge concluded that the ban on same-sex marriage does advance any legitimate state interest and is discriminatory. He declared the ban unconstitutional and enjoined the state from enforcing it. You can read the ruling here (pdf).
It's not clear yet whether this means gay marriages will be able to begin immediately, though the judge does not appear to have put a stay on his own ruling like has happened in other states.