Michigan's Gay Marriage Ban Will Go to Trial, Says Federal Judge

A federal judge determined this week that a lawsuit filed by a same-sex couple seeking to wed in Michigan in spite of the state's ban on same-sex marriage will go trial. Both the couple who filed the lawsuit and the state were hoping the judge would issue an immediate ruling.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said Wednesday that the trial for April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse of Hazel Park, Michigan, will commence Feb. 25. In his statement on Wednesday, Friedman pointed to the Supreme Court's June ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, saying that these women were also "entitled to their day in court and they shall have it."

DeBoer and Rowse, both nurses, filed a lawsuit in January 2012 challenging the state's ban on same-sex adoption, as the couple would like to adopt each other's children, Nolan, 4, Jacob, 3, and Ryanne, 3. The couple was later convinced to also challenge the state's ban on same-sex marriage, a 2004 constitutional amendment that was passed by 59 percent of voters.

Dana Nessel, the attorney for DeBoer and Rowse, said in a statement following Friedman's announcement that although her clients were hoping for an immediate ruling, they understand court processes take time.

"There's always some sentiment that justice delayed is justice denied, but they [the couple] understand that this is a very long process and now it's just going to be a little bit longer than we had initially anticipated," Nessel said, according to NBC. "They said all along that they'll do anything that they have to, to protect their children, and if what they have to do is go to trial on this matter then that's a small price to pay for them in order to secure legal rights to their children."

Dozens of county clerks in Michigan were poised Wednesday to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses, had Friedman ruled to lift the state ban on same-sex marriage. The clerks were advised by Attorney General Bill Schuette prior to Friedman's announcement on Wednesday to not issue any licenses, regardless of the judge's decision: "You are forbidden by Michigan law from issuing a marriage license to same-sex couples," the memo read in part, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The state has previously worked to vigorously defend its voter-approved constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, saying in previous court documents that it has "legitimate state interests" in defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. The state points specifically to the importance of upholding the voters' wish to maintain traditional marriage laws in the state.

"There is no fundamental right to marry a person of the same sex and nothing in the U.S. Constitution requires or permits federal courts to invalidate a state's decision defining civil marriage as the union of one man and one woman," the state has previously written in court documents.

Gary Glenn, leader of the conservative American Family Association of Michigan, said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press in a separate article that it would be a mistake for Friedman to lift the ban on same-sex marriage and go against the wishes of state voters.

"One Detroit lawyer in a black robe doesn't have the legitimate constitutional or moral authority to overturn the will of millions of Michigan voters," Glenn said.