Appeals court upholds Michigan’s gay marriage ban
By Tresa Baldas | Detroit Free Press
In a major blow to the gay-rights movement, a federal appeals court today denied same-sex couples the right to marry in four states — including Michigan — concluding that voters should decide whether gay marriage is a good idea or not.
“When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers,” the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals wrote in its 42-page ruling. “Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike … resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.”
In a 2-1 decision, the 6th Circuit upheld same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. The court issued its highly anticipated decision three months after hearing same-sex marriage cases from all four states, where federal judges had previously struck down bans on constitutional grounds.
The 6th Circuit overturned those decisions, concluding judges shouldn’t be deciding whether gays and lesbians should marry or not.
“Of all the ways to resolve this question, one option is not available: a poll of the three judges on this panel …. Our judicial commissions did not come with such a sweeping grant of authority, one that would allow just three of us — just two of us in truth — to make such a vital policy call for 32 million citizens who live within the four states of the 6th Circuit,” the court wrote.
The panel also had this to say about the definition of marriage: ” … for better, for worse … marriage has long been a social institution defined by relationships between men and women. So long defined, the tradition is measured in millennia, not centuries or decades.”
While the ruling came as a huge blow to the two Michigan plaintiffs who challenged Michigan’s ban on gay marriage, they remain adamant that they will win the right to marry before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We’re going straight to the Supreme Court,” said Dana Nessel, lead attorney for Hazel Park nurses April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse. “We feel absolutely confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will accept one of the cases out of the 6th Circuit, most likely Michigan’s or Kentucky’s.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet weighed in on the issue of gay marriage. Now that there’s a split in the federal appeals courts on the issue — the gay-marriage movement has won 30-plus cases in the last year — the Supreme Court will likely take up the issue, she said.
“We feel the Supreme Court was waiting for this,” Nessell said. “We’re looking forward to this issue being resolved once and for all for in this country, and I have every confidence that by the end of June 2015, there will be marriage equality in all 50 states.”
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has long vowed to uphold the will of the Michigan voters in preserving traditional marriage, issued a brief statement on the 6th Circuit ruling.
“As I have stated repeatedly, the U.S. Supreme Court will have the final word on this issue. The sooner they rule, the better, for Michigan and the country,” Schuette wrote.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder also weighed in, stating that Michigan’s same-sex couples who married during a window of opportunity in February are considered legally married. However, he said, they are not eligible for various state benefits unless the 6th Circuit opinion is overturned.