Michigan pastors representing about 1,000 churches gathered in Detroit on Monday to affirm their stance on marriage in light of a federal court trial that began Tuesday involving a lesbian couple who is seeking to reverse the state's gay marriage ban and adoption law.
The group met to discuss their support of a 2004 Michigan amendment, approved by the majority of voters, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, and they are now concerned that the trial will undermine that law.
"We, over 100 pastors and Christian leaders from not only Detroit, but across the State of Michigan want to send a message that there are yet still pastors in the city and state who stand by both our Michigan Constitution and our Judeo Christian values," said Pastor Lennell Caldwell of First Baptist World Changers, in a statement.
Gay rights advocates argue that Michigander's marriage views have evolved over the past decade. The majority now back same-sex marriage, according to a survey released last week by the LGBT group Equality Michigan.
However, the pastors argued that their stance was justified by God's Word and the laws should not change because of cultural shifts. They also agreed that the state and Detroit in particular, was morally deteriorating.
"The issue of marriage protection is not a matter of conservatism, liberalism, libertarianism, Democrat or Republican platforms, but is a matter of righteousness. It is a matter of biblical principles," said the Rev. Dr. Roland A. Caldwell, pastor of Burnette Inspirational Ministry.
Furthermore, all agreed that every American has a right to choose to live as he or she wants, but remained grounded in their position that "no one is entitled to redefine marriage."
Attorneys representing the couple at the center of the case, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse of Detroit, delivered opening statements Tuesday, saying the 2004 amendment violates their client's rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
"We would like this to be the last trial in America where same-sex parents will have to defend themselves," said their lawyer, Carole Stanyar, to U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, reports the New York Daily News.
DeBoer and Rowse initially sued the state and Gov. Rick Snyder in January 2012, seeking to overturn the same-sex adoption ban since they cannot jointly adopt the three children they are raising. Under Michigan adoption law, a single individual or a married couple can adopt a child, but two single individuals cannot adopt the same child together. They later amended their lawsuit to include the state's ban on gay marriage.
"Our children were abandoned or surrendered by their biological mothers, and all three were born with special needs," wrote DeBoer in an editorial that appeared in the Detroit Free Press. "We made the decision to challenge Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage and second-parent adoptions because we wanted to better protect our family."
The trial comes almost two weeks after a federal judge in Virginia ruled the state's ban invalid. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage.
Judge Friedman will make his decision in the case after an expected eight days of testimony.