Posts Tagged As: Michigan

Lots of Trans Legal News: One State Adds, One State Defends, Ten More States Sue

Jim Burroway

July 11th, 2016

NOTES: In states other than Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee, local jurisdictions may provide additional anti-discrimination protections beyond those provided by state law. On June 30, a federal judge issued an injunction preventing Mississippi’s so-called “religious freedom” law from going into effect.

NOTES: In states other than Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee, local jurisdictions may provide additional anti-discrimination protections beyond those provided by state law. On June 30, a federal judge issued an injunction preventing Mississippi’s so-called “religious freedom” law from going into effect.

First, let’s start with the good news: on Saturday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) signed a transgender rights bill into law. Massachusetts’s anti-discrimination law had previously protected against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in housing and employment, but there was a special carve-out for public accommodations for its gender identity provisions. This new law, which goes into effect October 1, eliminates that carve-out and allows transgender people to use the restrooms and changing facilities consistent with their gender identities rather than their identified gender at birth:

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) will adopt policies to enforce its provisions, a statement from the governor’s office said.

“No one should be discriminated against in Massachusetts because of their gender identity,” Baker said after signing the bill Friday.

“This compromise legislation extends additional protections to the commonwealth’s transgender community, and includes language to address the public safety concerns expressed by some by requiring the attorney general to issue regulations to protect against people abusing the law.”

And there’s more good news: Washington state’s comprehensive anti-discrimination laws have prohibited sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations for more than a decade with nary a problem with any of it. Last December, the state’s Human Rights Commission clarified that law by issuing new regulations ensuring access to restrooms and changing facilities according to an individual’s gender identity. That clarification produced a backlash, which led by some conservative Republicans to roll hack the regulations. When that effort failed in the state Senate, anti-LGBT campaigners filed Initiative 1515 (PDF:19KB/8 pages), which would have restricted access to public school’s “private facilities” to those who are “biologically” male or female. It would also allow people to file lawsuits against school systems that allow access to facilities based on gender identity.

The campaign backing I-1515, Just Want Privacy, had until last week to turn in 246,000 signatures that would be needed to get the initiative on the ballot. Last Thursday, campaign officials notified the Washington Secretary of State Office that they were cancelling their appointment to turn in the petitions.

Map, US, Lawsuits

But it’s not all good news for the pro-T camp. Ten more states, led by Nebraska, filed a federal lawsuit on Friday seeking to halt the Obama Administration’s trans-rights rulings to Title VII and Title IX funding and its recent to schools instructing them to develop anti-discirmination policies protecting transgender students which would include allowing them to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. According to Buzzfeed’s Chris Geidner:

The Nebraska-led lawsuit contains many of the same claims raised in the Texas-led lawsuit, often repeating the same exact language as appeared in the Texas complaint.

Despite naming the same defendants as in the Texas-led lawsuit, however, the Nebraska-led lawsuit appears to focus on protections relating to transgender students — asserting that students have the right under federal law to use a restroom in accordance with their gender identity. Nonetheless, it does name the Education, Justice, and Labor departments, as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as defendants and asks for relief against all of those agencies’ transgender-inclusive policies.

Nebraska’s attorney general, Douglas Peterson, is joined in the suit against the Obama administration by the attorneys general of Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

The lawsuit has been assigned to be heard by U.S. District Court Judge John Gerrard, nominated to the bench by President Obama in 2012. Gerrard previously had served as a justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court.

With this filing, exactly half of all states are involved with federal lawsuits challenging the Obama Administrations pro-trans policies.

Michigan allows religious adoption agencies to turn away couples of which they disapprove

Timothy Kincaid

June 12th, 2015

The state of Michigan has approved three bills that will authorize religious-based adoption agencies to turn away certain applicants.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday quickly signed controversial legislation allowing adoption agencies that contract with the state to decline service to prospective parents on religious grounds.

The laws impact about 17 of the state’s 62 adoption agencies and requires that all religious agencies keep referral lists so that they can send prospective couples to alternate facilities. The Governor’s rationale for signing the bills is that without the protection, some of the agencies would close and that this would result in fewer children being placed in homes.

I don’t object to adoption agencies that target their placement. If a Catholic woman wants to be certain that her son is raised respecting the beliefs and traditions of her faith, I have no problem with her going to a Catholic adoption agency that will place the child with a Catholic family.

But don’t ask me to pay for it. It stops being “charity” when you get paid to do it.

Funding religious service providers has always been a tricky proposition. But for as long as they did not discriminate in the services they provide, the state could not exclude certain providers just because they were religious.

But these bills change the ground rules. These specifically say that contractors CAN discriminate, using taxpayer funds, so long as it’s based on a religious reason. And that is an unjustifiable position for a state. If a state contractor cannot provide services to all citizens on an equal and fair basis, then it’s time to go be a charity again.

I think that the legislators and Governor in Michigan will regret this decision. While it is intended to protect religious adoption agencies from placing children with gay couples, laws tend to never stay in the box for which they were intended. Unable to just come out and say “you can refuse gay people”, the legislature used the vaguer concept of ‘religious objection’ and that is a notion that is very broad.

Of course Catholics won’t place children with gay couples. That’s a violation of their beliefs. But can they, in good conscience, place children with Satanists? I mean, c’mon, Satanists?

And then there’s Wiccans. And Pagans. Surely a Christian organization doesn’t have to place children in the homes of people who worship demon spirits in trees and lakes.

And certainly we don’t want to place Christian children with Jews, where they won’t be taught Jesus or go to heaven. Or Hindus; they’re idol worshipers. Or Muslim – definitely not Muslims. Or the crazy Pentecostals.

And, of course, atheists. Or those who are irreligious. A child needs a good moral structure.

And the list goes on. And on. All with good religious reasons.

All on the state’s dollar.

And that’s a nightmare.

300 marriages recognized by Michigan

Timothy Kincaid

February 4th, 2015

In March of last year, Federal Judge Bernard Friedman found that the State of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the US Constitution. And couples rushed to marry.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay on the ruling a few days later. And in November that court overturned the ruling by Judge Friedman, in a decision that differed from all other circuit courts which had ruled on the subject. The decision of the Sixth Circuit will be considered by the Supreme Court this Spring.

But what of the couples who married?

Governor Rick Snyder (R) tried to stake out a middle ground in his response. He recognized that the marriages were legal when performed, which allowed the couples to be recognized by the Federal Government. However, he argued that state laws disallowed recognition of those legal marriages by the state of Michigan.

Last month U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith found that the state had the obligation to recognize those more than 300 marriages on the same terms as any other marriage. He stayed his ruling for three weeks for the state to appeal to the Sixth Circuit, should they choose.

Today, Governor Snyder announced that his administration would not appeal that decision. (abc)

“The judge has determined that same-sex couples were legally married on that day, and we will follow the law and extend state marriage benefits to those couples,” Snyder said in a statement.

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Four Marriage Cases

Jim Burroway

January 16th, 2015

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the four marriage cases in which the Sixth Circuit turned back an effort to bring marriage equality or marriage recognition in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. According to today’s order: (PDF: 43KB/2 pages) the Court intends to keep the arguments focused on two narrow questions:

The cases are consolidated and the petitions for writs of certiorari are granted limited to the following questions: 1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex? 2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state? A total of ninety minutes is allotted for oral argument on Question 1. A total of one hour is allotted for oral argument on Question 2. The parties are limited to filing briefs on the merits and presenting oral argument on the questions presented in their respective petitions. The briefs of petitioners are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, February 27, 2015. The briefs of respondents are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, March 27, 2015. The reply briefs are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, April 17, 2015.

Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog believes that oral arguments may take place in late April with a final ruling “probably in late June.” He adds:

Although the Court said explicitly that it was limiting review to the two basic issues, along the way the Justices may have to consider what constitutional tests they are going to apply to state bans, and what weight to give to policies that states will claim to justify one or the other of the bans.

ACLU To Appeal Sixth Circuit Decision Straight to the U.S. Supreme Court

Jim Burroway

November 6th, 2014

Chase Strangio, staff attorney for the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, has announced that they will bypass an en banc review and appeal today’s Sixth Circuit decision directly to the U.S. Supreme Court:

“This decision is an outlier that’s incompatible with the 50 other rulings that uphold fairness for all families, as well as with the Supreme Court’s decision to let marriage equality rulings stand in Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia. It is shameful and wrong that John Arthur’s death certificate may have to be revised to list him as single and erase his husband’s name as his surviving spouse. We believe it’s wholly unconstitutional to deny same sex couples and their families access to the rights and respect that all other families receive. We will be filing for Supreme Court review right away and hope that through this deeply disappointing ruling we will be able to bring a uniform rule of equality to the entire country.”

Meanwhile, this dissent of today’s decision, written by Sixth Circuit Judge Martha Daughtrey, caught my eye. She denounced the majority’s opinion which refused to recognize the judiciary’s responsibility for guaranteeing the rights of all Americans (PDF: 309KB/64 pages):

Today, my colleagues seem to have fallen prey to the misguided notion that the intent of the framers of the United States Constitution can be effectuated only by cleaving to the legislative will and ignoring and demonizing an independent judiciary. Of course, the framers presciently recognized that two of the three co-equal branches of government were representative in nature and necessarily would be guided by self-interest and the pull of popular opinion. To restrain those natural, human impulses, the framers crafted Article III to ensure that rights, liberties, and duties need not be held hostage by popular whims.

More than 20 years ago, when I took my oath of office to serve as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, I solemnly swore to “administer justice without respect to persons,” to “do equal right to the poor and to the rich,” and to “faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me . . . under the Constitution and laws of the United States.” See 28 U.S.C. § 453. If we in the judiciary do not have the authority, and indeed the responsibility, to right fundamental wrongs left excused by a majority of the electorate, our whole intricate, constitutional system of checks and balances, as well as the oaths to which we swore, prove to be nothing but shams

She also wonders aloud:

These four cases from our sister circuits provide a rich mine of responses to every rationale raised by the defendants in the Sixth Circuit cases as a basis for excluding same-sex couples from contracting valid marriages. Indeed, it would seem unnecessary for this court to do more than cite those cases in affirming the district courts’ decisions in the six cases now before us. Because the correct result is so obvious, one is tempted to speculate that the majority has purposefully taken the contrary position to create the circuit split regarding the legality of same-sex marriage that could prompt a grant of certiorari by the Supreme Court and an end to the uncertainty of status and the interstate chaos that the current discrepancy in state laws threatens. Perhaps that is the case, but it does not relieve the dissenting member of the panel from the obligation of a rejoinder.

Sixth Circuit upholds anti-gay marriage bans

Timothy Kincaid

November 6th, 2014

marriage 2014

In a 2-1 decision, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the state constitutional bans on marriage of the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. Writing for the majority, Judge Jeffrey Sutton said:

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. Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.

This determination ignores the fact that when animus in present, a minority cannot become the “hero of it’s own stories” as they lack the ability to win in the “customary political processes”. When confronting Goliath on the field of political battle, the only stone in David’s sling is that of judicial protection. Judge Sutton would have David face the giant with no stones at all.

This is, of course, not the end of the story.

It is likely that the plaintiffs will ask for an en banc review and, if they do not prevail in that venue, will appeal to the Supreme Court.

Michigan GOP former Speaker of House calls for equality

Timothy Kincaid

June 17th, 2014

A number of formerly prominent Republicans have signed a brief urging the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm the ruling that Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage is in violation of the US Constitution. (ClickOnDetroit)

The Republicans include former House Speaker Rick Johnson and former House Majority Leader Chris Ward.

Former U.S. Rep. John “Joe” Schwartz has signed on, along with former state lawmakers Leon Drolet, Doug Hart, Dave Honigman and Susan Grimes Gilbert.

It seems to me that in some parts of the country we have now reached the stage in our quest for equality wherein former GOP leaders or power-players are beginning to champion our cause. And while most of those currently in power do not yet appear to be willing to be publicly supportive, many have elected to adopt language such as “let the judicial system decide” or even “it is inevitable, so we should focus on respecting each other”.

While Republicans are not speaking in harmony with not the fully supportive language of the Democrats, I think that these shifts in the political stance of Republicans leaders, both current and former, foretell a time not so distantly ahead in which civil equality is assured and not even terribly controversial.

Snyder calls for non-discrimination

Timothy Kincaid

June 4th, 2014

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) has been walking a careful line when it comes to gay issues.

When his state’s ban on marriage equality was found to be unconstitutional, he opted not to share his own views and left the appeal to the state’s attorney general. And when his office had to take a position on those marriages that occurred before a stay was issued, he found a legal medium; the marriages were legal (and thus could be recognized federally) but the state’s statutes (once the ruling was stayed) disallowed state recognition.

But now he has found a way to be supportive of the gay community, and do so at the behest of a Republican constituency. Speaking at the Detroit Regional Chamber Policy Conference on Mackinac Island, where a group of business leaders has endorsed adding LGBT rights to the civil rights law, he concurred. (Michigan radio)

Governor Rick Snyder says he’d like the Legislature to amend Michigan’s civil rights law to add protections for gays, lesbians and transgendered people.

“I don’t believe in discrimination and I think it would be great if they, the Legislature, looked at it later in the year,” said Snyder.

Michigan Files Regnerus-Free Marriage Appeal Brief

Jim Burroway

May 8th, 2014

When U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedmam declared Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional last March, he spilled considerable ink all over the state’s expert witness, Mark Regnerus, whose discredited Witherspoon-funded “study” purported to show that children of gay couples fared worse than other children. The problem was — and this came out in the cross-examination of the state’s star witness — the study included only two children who were actually raised by gay parents, and Regnerus admitted that they came out “Pretty good.” In his written opinion, Judge Friedman blasted “his 2012 ‘study’ (which) was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder” as “flawed on its face.”

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette appealed the decision, and in a brief filed with the Sixth District Court of Appeals, he quietly omitted all references to Regnerus’s bogus study, and argued instead that same-sex marriage should be banned not because experts believe that same-sex parents are bad parents, but because voters believe it:

In preserving marriage as between a man and a woman, a reasonable voter might have thought that it is beneficial when children are raised in a home with both a mom and a dad. Another reasonable voter might have thought that this definition encourages those couples with the inherent ability to have children (i.e., opposite-sex couples) to enter into a committed, exclusive relationship, for the benefit of any children they might have. …

This appeal is not about approval or disapproval of same-sex relationships or sexual orientation. Nor is this appeal about a gay or lesbian individual’s ability to be a parent. This case is not about single moms’ and dads’ ability to raise children.  As a society, we wish that all children had loving parents, no matter what their sexual orientation may be.

Because Judge Friedman wrote that he could not find that Michigan voters acted out of animus when approving the state’s constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, Schuette’s brief takes as its central argument that striking down the constitutional amendment “demeans democracy,” and cites Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in a Supreme Court ruling (Schuette vs BAMN) upholding Michigan’s ban on affirmative action. Singling out Kennedy this way is noteworthy. With Kennedy considered the potential swing vote in any upcoming Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, this brief was more or less written to Kennedy, rather than to the judges at the Sixth District Court of Appeals:

Justice Kennedy’s admonition on this point in Schuette is worth repeating: “It is demeaning to the democratic process to presume that the voters are not capable of deciding an issue of this sensitivity on decent and rational grounds.” 572 U.S. __, slip op. 17. To put this in perspective, more than 45 million American voters across the country have voted to retain the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. Respect for the dignity of these millions of voters, who must be presumed to be “decent and rational,” should make courts reluctant to conclude that support for maintaining the definition of marriage is irrational. After all, a decision by this Court that there is no rational basis for Michigan’s voters to have defined marriage as they did necessarily means that not only Michigan’s voters, but more than 42 million other American citizens who have voted the same way, did not have among them a single conceivable rational basis for their votes.

But they’re still not ready to give up their straight-parents-are-the-best argument. They’re just pinning it on voters, and not the experts:

The only question at issue, then, is whether any conceivable reason supports the people’s decision to retain the definition of marriage.  Under the governing standards for rational-basis review, the people’s decision must be given the benefit of the doubt—it must be upheld if their policy choice is at least debatable, and even if it is under-inclusive or over-inclusive (or both).

Defining marriage as between one man and one woman satisfies this test. The State has a legitimate interest in marriage precisely because of marriage’s inherent connection to children. The vast majority of children born in Michigan (and the United States and the world) are born as a result of the sexual union of a man and a woman. Promoting marriage as between a man and a woman thus recognizes that every child should have the opportunity to know and have a relationship with his or her biological mother and father, and it increases the likelihood that the most common type of procreation will occur in a long-term, committed relationship. It was reasonable for Michigan voters to think that this is a beneficial setting for children, and thus to link marriage to procreation—the biological fact that every child has a mother and a father.

Michigan isn’t the only state to drop Regnerus like a hot potato. Two weeks after his study went down in flames in the Michigan case, attorneys for the Utah Attorney General’s office filed a special “Supplemental Authority clarifying position re: Regnerus study” with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, in which the state disavowed its own citing of the Regnerus study in the original appeals brief filed in February. It looks like the word has gone out: Regnerus’s study is radioactive and the nearly $800,000 spent on it was wasted — unless you count its influence in Russia as a success.

Snyder suspends legal marriages

Timothy Kincaid

March 26th, 2014

Earlier today I speculated that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) would find that those legal marriages occurring between the time in which Judge Friedman found the anti-gay ban unconstitutional and the time in which the court issued a stay would be precisely that: legal marriage. It seems I guessed wrong. (Buzzfeed)

On Wednesday, Snyder stated that those marriages are legal but that, because the state’s amendment banning recognition of such marriages is back on the books while the stay is in place, “the rights tied to these marriages are suspended” for the time being.

There may be legal arguments supporting that view, but I suspect this may have political consequences that do not work in his favor.

The immediate consequence is that this opens the marriages up to federal recognition.

Michigan Gov. Snyder coy on marriage, waiting for legal counsel

Timothy Kincaid

March 26th, 2014

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) has been walking a narrow line since Federal Judge Bernard Friedman found that his state’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the US Constitution. Although Snyder is on tape stating in 2010 that he believed marriage to be “between a man and a woman”, he is now insisting that he has no public opinion on the matter and will go by whatever the courts decide.

Snyder is trying to differentiate himself from the state’s Attorney General, Bill Schuette (R), who has appealed the decision and on whose behest the court has issued a stay. He’s trying to play the role of spectator, an uninterested party who will do as directed.

And, as a practical matter, he is. Other than as cheerleader in either direction, his views are immaterial to the outcome.

But Snyder does have one significant role in the process. He will decide whether or not the State of Michigan will honor those marriages that occurred between the ruling and the stay.

Of course the courts can overrule Snyder’s decision, whatever it may be. But should he decide to honor the marriages, it will eliminate delay and ease the transition. And it is unlikely that a court would overturn such a decision or even that anyone has standing to appeal it.

And on that matter, Snyder is walking softly: (MLive)

“I appreciate that it’s a confusing circumstance, and I would like to provide some clarity, but I need to do that based on legal advice,” Snyder told reporters after an unrelated event in Lansing. “We’re going through that analysis at this time.”

The legal status of those marriage licenses is in question, and a three-judge 6th Circuit panel did not offer any clarification on Tuesday when they extended the stay pending the outcome of an appeal by Attorney General Bill Schuette.

Press Secretary Sara Wurfel said the Snyder administration is prepared to offer guidance to same-sex couples who obtained licenses as soon as a legal analysis is complete. That could be later Wednesday, or it could be later in the week.

Wurfel said the governor’s legal team is examining whether the state should recognize those marriage licenses for tax purposes, adoption and more. Michigan does not currently recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.

“Legal advice” could go either way. But, to speculate, I think the likelier course is that Snyder’s legal team will find that legally married couples are legally married.

There’s very little political downside to recognizing marriages that have occurred. And Snyder, who seems to have no fire in his belly over social issue has mostly shied away from contentious issues, expressing a desire to focus on jobs and the economy.

And the risk of opposing recognition is high. Michigan is a purple state in which a majority supports marriage equality. Should he refuse to recognize marriage – only to be overruled by a court – it could make him appear to be an intransigent right-winger in a year in which he is seeking reelection.

UPDATE: Snyder opposes recognition.

Michigan Episcopalians on marriage

Timothy Kincaid

March 25th, 2014

What do you do if the Speakers for Jesus speak words that reflect the message of no Jesus that you know? If you are Episcopal Bishops in Michigan, you take to the papers. (Detroit Free Press)

As Christians, we cannot be silent as our state’s highest laws discriminate against segments of our society based on the personal biases of those in power, particularly when a majority of Michigan’s population now supports marriage equality. To remain silent is to be complicit in the decline of our society through demonizing unprotected minorities, segregation based on sexual preference, denial of benefits to selected groups, and fear-based prejudice. Our continued silence can lead only to further discrimination, bullying and other forms of physical, emotional and spiritual violence.


About that radical militant activist Judge Friedman

Timothy Kincaid

March 25th, 2014

The National Organization for Marriage (theirs, not yours) has had a rough time of it lately. With loss after loss in courts across the country, financial woes, and staggering shifts in public opinion, they’ve pretty much given up the fight in the US.

Oh, they are still flogging their plans for a Marriage March (as the last one was so effective, snark) but when I went to their website following the Michigan ruling for the predictable rant about liberals and one man in robes overruling the voters, Brian Brown and Co. hadn’t even made a comment. They finally, yesterday, got around to posting the opinion of the local Catholic bishop, but it was just too tame to quote.

So we’ll have to settle for the knowledge that if Brian Brown hadn’t been sobbing under his desk, he’d have served us the usual portion of “radical militant activist judges legislating from the bench”.

So let’s take a look at radical militant activist Judge Friedman. And you already know where this is going, don’t you.

The great gods of irony have long since writ the script on marriage equality decisions. And they’ve decided that despite decades of Republicans campaigning on the idea that they must be elected to appoint true defenders of the constitution, a good many of those jurists who have found that gay people are equally protected by the US Constitution hail from the R side of the judicial pool.

So, of course, for this ruling – the one that tolled the death knell of their last claim to anti-gay “research” – the irony gods pulled out all the stops. Not only is Friedman a life-long conservative Republican with long record of right-side-of-the-aisle perspective on law, he was appointed by the glowing idol of the GOP. (Slate)

Judge Bernard Friedman is from eastern Michigan, where he was an honors student at Michigan State University and did JAG service during Vietnam. He became a reliable conservative jurist and was appointed by President Reagan in 1988.

Someone hand Brian Brown another hanky.

Judge Friedman on Mark Regnerus

Timothy Kincaid

March 25th, 2014

The Michigan trial on the constitutionality of excluding same-sex couples from the rights and responsibilities of marriage was (after Hawaii and California) only the third case to present and try the facts presented by the various sides. And, as such, the ruling by Judge Friedman was important not just for finding the ban unconstitutional but also in its measure of the merits of the arguments presented.

Particularly interesting was US District Court Judge Bernard Friedman’s opinion on the arguments presented by star witness Mark Regnerus, whose “study” comparing children raised in intact heterosexual families to, well, something else, has been touted by anti-gays as their smoking gun.

It’s a bit lengthy, but here it is in its entirety:

In defense of their asserted justifications for the MMA, the state defendants first called sociologist Mark Regnerus. Regnerus’s testimony focused on the results of his 2012 “New Family Structures Study” (“NFSS”), a survey data collection project that was formulated to assess adult outcomes of children who reported that one of their parents had been in a “romantic relationship with someone of the same-sex” during the respondents’ childhood years. Of the 15,000 participants ranging in age from 18 to 39, 248 of them reported that one of their parents had been in such a romantic relationship. From this sample, 175 reported that their mother had a same-sex romantic relationship while 73 reported that their father had been romantically involved with another man. Regnerus then compared the adult outcomes of these two subgroups with another set of participants who were raised by intact biological parents. The outcomes of these groups were significantly different.

Regnerus found that children who reported that their mothers had a same-sex relationship were less likely to pursue an education or obtain full-time employment and more likely to be unemployed and receiving public assistance, more likely to experience sexual assault, more likely to cheat on their partners or spouses and more likely to have been arrested at some point in their past. Similarly, Regnerus discovered that children who reported that their fathers had a same-sex relationship were more likely to have been arrested, more likely to plead guilty to non-minor offenses and more likely to have numerous sexual partners.

Although Regnerus touted the NFSS as one of the few studies to use a large representative pool of participants drawn from a random population-based sample, other sociological and demographic experts, including Rosenfeld and Gates, heavily criticized the study on several grounds. First, it failed to measure the adult outcomes of children who were actually raised in same-sex households. This is because the participants’ household histories revealed that many parental same-sex romantic relationships lasted for only brief periods of time. And many of the participants never lived in a same-sex household at all. Regnerus reported that “just over half (90) of the 175 respondents whose mother had a lesbian relationship reported that they did not live with both their mother and her same-sex partner at the same time.” Id. at 11. Second, many critics voiced their concern that the NFSS made an unfair comparison between children raised by parents who happened to engage in some form of same-sex relationship and those raised by intact biological families. This is because almost all of the children in the former group were the offspring of a failed prior heterosexual union, which produced a significant measure of household instability and parental relationship fluctuation.

Even Regnerus recognized the limitations of the NFSS. In his expert report, Regnerus acknowledged that “any suboptimal outcomes may not be due to the sexual orientation of the parent” and that “[t]he exact source of group differences” are unknown. Defs.’ Ex. 28 at 5. Moreover, of the only two participants who reported living with their mother and her same-sex partner for their entire childhood, Regnerus found each of them to be “comparatively well-adjusted on most developmental and contemporary outcomes.” Id. at 11. Nonetheless, Regnerus testified that there is no conclusive evidence that “growing up in households wherein parents are in (or have been in) same-sex relationships” does not adversely affect child outcomes. Id. at 16.

The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration. The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that his 2012 “study” was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder, which found it “essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society” and which “was confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study.” See Pls.’ Motion in limine to Exclude Testimony of Mark Regnerus, Ex. 9. In the funder’s view, “the future of the institution of marriage at this moment is very uncertain” and “proper research” was needed to counter the many studies showing no differences in child outcomes. Id. The funder also stated that “this is a project where time is of the essence.” Id. Time was of the essence at the time of the funder’s comments in April 2011, and when Dr. Regnerus published the NFSS in 2012, because decisions such as Perry v. Schwarzenegger, 704 F. Supp. 2d 921 (N.D. Cal. 2010), and Windsor v. United States, 833 F. Supp. 2d 394 (S.D.N.Y. 2012), were threatening the funder’s concept of “the institution of marriage.”

While Regnerus maintained that the funding source did not affect his impartiality as a researcher, the Court finds this testimony unbelievable. The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged. Additionally, the NFSS is flawed on its face, as it purported to study “a large, random sample of American young adults (ages 18-39) who were raised in different types of family arrangements” (emphasis added), but in fact it did not study this at all, as Regnerus equated being raised by a same-sex couple with having ever lived with a parent who had a “romantic relationship with someone of the same sex” for any length of time. Whatever Regnerus may have found in this “study,” he certainly cannot purport to have undertaken a scholarly research effort to compare the outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples with those of children raised by heterosexual couples. It is no wonder that the NFSS has been widely and severely criticized by other scholars, and that Regnerus’s own sociology department at the University of Texas has distanced itself from the NFSS in particular and Dr. Regnerus’s views in general and reaffirmed the aforementioned APA position statement.

Translation: liar, liar, pants on fire.

Michigan Couples Rush County Clerks Offices For Marriage Licenses (Updated)

Jim Burroway

March 22nd, 2014

Couples line up in Ann Arbor for a shot at sixty marriage licenses to be issued today by the Washtenaw County Clerk’s Office. (Photo: Steve Friess)


Marsha Caspar, 52, and Glenna DeJong, 53.

News reports are crediting a Lansing couple, Glenna DeJong, 53, and Marsha Caspar, 52, as the first same-sex couple to marry in Michigan this morning after a Federal judge struck down Michigan’s Marriage Amendment (MMA) as unconstitutional late yesterday afternoon. They were married, after twenty-seven years together, shortly after the Ingham County Clerk’s office opened at 8:00 a.m. and issued them a license.

Ingham County was one of a handful of Michigan to open for special hours today specifically to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The other counties where clerks have opened today for special hours included Washtenaw (Ann Arbor), Muskegon (Muskegon, on Lake Michigan) and Oakland (Pontiac).

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has already filed a notice that he was appealing the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and he filed a separate request to the Sixth Circuit  to stay the lower court’s ruling. The Sixth Circuit has yet to act on the request.

Update: From the Detroit Free Press:

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals will not act over the weekend on a stay requested by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette in the gay marriage case, the court said in an order posted today.

The court has given the plaintiffs in the case, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, until Tuesday to file a response to Schuette’s request for a stay of U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman’s Friday order declaring Michigan’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.

More than two hundred couples were able to marry in the four counties which opened their offices today. This notice from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals indicates that thousands more will be able to marry beginning on Monday when County Clerks Offices open statewide.

Update: The Sixth Circuit late Saturday issued a temporary stay until Wednesday. Again, from the Detroit Free Press:

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, after first signaling it would not intervene in Michigan’s gay marriage case until Tuesday, posted a new order late Saturday imposing a stay in the case until Wednesday. …

“To allow a more reasoned consideration of the motion to stay, it is ordered that the district court judgment is temporarily stayed until Wednesday,” the 6th Circuit said in an order late Saturday.

About 323 marriage licenses had been issued in four Michigan counties before the Sixth Circuit issued its stay.

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