Federal courts will ultimately decide the fate of the amendment to Michigan's Constitution banning same-sex marriage.
Judge Bernard Friedman issued a ruling on Friday that found the voter-approved amendment unconstitutional. The judge refused to stay his own ruling. The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did grant Attorney General Bill Schuette's request for a stay on Saturday, but in the meantime hundreds of same-sex couples were married.
Those couples are described now as being in "legal limbo." The stay is in effect through the appeals process. Both sides will have to submit their arguments to the court by June.
Gongwer News Service Editor Zach Gorchow says the case in Michigan has played out like it has in other states. He says the one surprise was that Friedman did not stay his ruling. He says it seems likely that eventually the U.S. Supreme Court will have to rule on whether states can ban same-sex marriage.
The same-sex marriage case has made news in an election year. Governor Rick Snyder would not give his opinion on whether gay marriage should be legal. Gorchow says it was a strange answer given that when Snyder was running for governor in 2010, he stated his belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Gay marriage could also be an issue in the race for Attorney General. Republican Bill Schuette formally launched his re-election bid on Monday. But Mark Totten of Kalamazoo, who hopes to be Schuette's Democratic opponent has been critical of how the Attorney General has handled the same-sex marriage case. Gorchow says the case has dominated news as Schuette starts his campaign. He says for Totten, the case may allow him to get his name out. Gorchow says Totten may be able to use the issue as a way to introduce himself to Democrats throughout the state in his effort to get the nomination.
Gorchow says the political maneuvering shows the Republicans are walking a fine line. Their base still opposes gay marriage, But he says the polling shows that younger voters and independent voters are more likely to hold moderate views on the issue.
News of Judge Friedman's ruling was welcomed at the Kalamazoo Gay, Lesbian Resource Center. Community Engagement Coordinator Megan Bauer says the last few days have been huge for gay, lesbian and bisexual equality in Michigan despite the appeal of Judge Friedman's ruling and the stay issued by the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Bauer says there has been tremendous progress on the issue of marriage equality. But she says Michigan is a long way from being a state that treats LGBT people fairly.
Bishop Paul Bradley of the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo issued a statement saying the court's decision is unfortunate and regrettable. But Bauer says she's glad that the Bishop in that same statement said that the church's position is against discrimination. Bauer says the center has worked with members of the community of faith and will continue to work with them in the future. (Note: WMUK requested an interview with Bishop Bradely - see below)
Michigan voters approved the ban on same-sex marriage in an amendment to the state Constitution in 2004. In filing his appeal, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said the will of voters should stand and be respected. Bauer says the courts exist in part to review what is passed by voters. She also says it has been a decade since Michigan voters approved the amendment to the state Constitution banning gay marriage. Bauer says polling has shown growing support for allowing same-sex partners to be married.
Bauer says Kalamazoo is a welcoming community to gay and lesbian couples. She says a non-discrimination ordinance, passed by the city commission and upheld by the voters is part of the reason. Bauer says allowing same-sex marriage would make it a more welcoming community.
WMUK requested an interview with Bishop Paul Bradley of the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo. The diocese said the bishop could not participate because of scheduling difficulties. The following is the statement that Bishop Bradley issued after Friday's ruling:
The decision handed down today by Federal District Court Judge Bernard Friedman in the case of DeBoer vs. Snyder is unfortunate and regrettable. With the stroke of a pen, the meaning of marriage, one of society’s most sacred institutions and the very foundation of the family, has been redefined in our state. As a result of this decision, the amendment to the Michigan constitution, which reflected the understanding of the majority of the citizens of this State, and which was designed to protect the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, has been undone by judicial decision.
No matter how the courts or other secular institutions choose to attempt to refashion such a foundational institution of society as marriage, our Catholic faith consistently upholds the understanding, rooted in Natural law and Divine design, that marriage is a lifelong partnership of love and fidelity between one man and one woman, ordered for the mutual support of the spouses and the procreation of children if possible. A couple whose marriage is blessed and made holy through the Sacrament of Matrimony reflects the saving love of Jesus for His Bride, the Church.
As the merit of this case continues to be argued, it provides us the opportunity to proclaim both the Catholic Church’s position against unjust discrimination aimed at all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation, as well as the sacredness of traditional marriage. While our faith teaches us to treat individuals with same-sex attraction with respect, compassion and sensitivity, we also are called to defend the divine institution of marriage between one man and one woman.