Photo by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog
After District Court Judge Bernard Friedman ruled Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional last Friday afternoon, he did not stay his own decision pending the outcome of any appeals. Because of this, Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette, acting on behalf of Gov. Rick Snyder, filed an emergency request to stay the decision. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals didn’t weigh in until nearly 24 hours later, during which time over 300 same-sex couples where issued licenses and nearly 300 were married in Michigan. Saturday evening, the Sixth Circuit did issue a temporary stay, halting any further marriages.
This afternoon, after hearing from the attorneys for Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, they made the stay permanent, pending the outcome of a tax-payer funded appeal.
The plaintiff’s answer to AG Schuette’s appeal (read it HERE [pdf]) was blunt:
The public interest is best met by denying a stay in this matter. There are times when maintaining the status quo makes sense. There are also times when maintaining the status quo is merely a kinder label for perpetuating discrimination that should no longer be tolerated. The public interest in this case lies on the side of ending discrimination, promoting equality and human dignity and providing security for children, especially these adult Plaintiffs-Appellees’ special needs children.
The plaintiffs attorneys have also requested (pdf) an expedited appeal.
Quoted in the Detroit Free Press, ACLU attorney Jay Kaplan says he thinks this case may well be the one that decides the future of same-sex marriage bans nationally:
[Kaplan] predicted that Michigan may be the case the High Court will consider because it involves a full-fledged trial with testimony and evidence on the issue of same sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court could take up one of the same sex marriage cases later this year or early next year and make a ruling by June of 2015.
This decision by the Sixth Circuit Court, while disappointing, was not unexpected. While LGBT couples in Michigan who wish to marry will need to wait a bit longer, there is social and legal inertia in their favor. Judge Friedman wisely ensured that this case was handled precisely by the book with all of the “I”s dotted and all of the “T”s crossed. Releasing his decision late on a Friday evening without a stay in place gave same-sex couples an opportunity to show just how many of our citizens are waiting to achieve full equality in the eyes of our government. He’s to be commended for his service to our country and the wisdom he has shown.
The legal team working for April and Jayne have taken the case just as seriously as Judge Friedman and just as seriously as a case of this magnitude deserves. They laid down a solid legal bedrock that will used as the case proceeds through the Appeals Court and then on to the U.S. Supreme Court. They, too, are to be commended for their thoroughness and excellence.
Meanwhile, AG Schuette’s legal team looked like novices. One of their key witnesses was dismissed for being little more than a professional opinion-holder and another one of their main experts, sociologist Mark Regnerus, was repudiated by his own employer the day after his homophobic testimony.
The final decision on marriage equality in Michigan and, perhaps, for the entire country may be a year or more away. Still, the goal is in sight and public opinion is rapidly moving in favor of full equality. In the meantime, Republicans like Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette will further damage their political credibility and erode the Republican brand through their intolerance and their homophobic position on denying equality to ALL Michiganders. They are on the wrong side of history. I believe they know it but, in order to appeal to an increasingly extreme yet shrinking homophobic base, they have little choice but to continue down their current path.