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Michigan marriage-equality case won't be decided today as judge sets trial date

DETROIT – A federal judge today heard arguments on motions to strike down Michigan’s voter-approved ban on same-gender marriage, but while he said “time is of the essence” he instead set a trial date on Feb. 25, 2014.

District Court Judge Bernard Friedman ruled against a lesbian couple, two nurses from Hazel Park, Mich. who had sued to win joint custody of their adopted children and eventually expanded the case to include marriage rights.

The case, DeBoer v Snyder and Schuette, involves Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer and their three adopted, special-needs children. The couple want to jointly adopt their children for legal purposes.

Lawyers for the opponents of lifting the ban cited state’s rights as a reason to trump federal opinions. The lawyers argued that the voters’ will should not be overturned. Kristin Heyse, with the state’s Attorney General’s Office, which is defending the law banning marriage equality, contended that there is no fundamental right to same-gender marriage or adoption.

Attorneys for supporters of marriage equality argued that the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken in striking down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and allowed California’s Proposition 8 to be declared unconstitutional because of its discriminatory nature. They cited the 14th Amendment and said the U.S. does not endorse the creation of “second-class citizens” by treating gay and lesbian couples differently than opposite-gender couples.

Carole Stanyar, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the judge that the State of Michigan is wrong for defending a law that is discriminatory. She also shot down junk science cited against LGBT adoption and the effects on children.

Judge Friedman, a Vietnam veteran, was appointed to the federal bench by Republican President Ronald Reagan and approved by the U.S. Senate.