Same Sex Marriage: Legal or Not?

The United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this Tuesday on same-sex marriage.

Family law in Michigan is constantly changing. For the time being, the ban on gay marriage in Michigan is still in effect; however, this could be changing soon once the Supreme Court makes a ruling. The United States Supreme Court will face the issue of same sex marriage over the coming weeks, hearing oral argument next Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges, and issuing its opinion by early summer 2015. The decision will once and for all determine whether same sex marriage is legal, and whether the ban on gay marriage in Michigan and a minority of states will be allowed to continue.

Obergefell v. Hodges is a consolidation of same sex marriage cases arising from the Sixth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. Named after the Ohio lawsuit, the case before the Supreme Court encompasses three other cases, each from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Michigan. On November 6, 2014, the majority for the Sixth Circuit ruled the Michigan Marriage Amendment is constitutional; thus, the ban on gay marriage in Michigan continues.

A little background on the Michigan gay marriage case . . .

The Michigan same-sex marriage case was filed by an unmarried gay couple, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse. DeBoer and Rowse are both nurses and live in metro Detroit with the 3 children adopted by DeBoer and the 1 child adopted by Rowse. Their case against the State of Michigan challenges Michigan’s adoption law, which restricts adoptions to married couples or single individuals (i.e., because Michigan does not legally recognize a same-sex couple as “married,” the couple cannot adopt a child together), and challenges the 2004 amendment to Michigan’s Constitution, which prohibits performing and/or recognizing same sex marriage in Michigan.

At the trial court level, federal Judge Friedman held an eight day bench trial, hearing arguments in support of and against the state’s ban on gay marriage and testimony from several professionals, including a psychologist, sociologists, law professors, and economists. Based upon the arguments made by counsel and the testimony presented, Judge Friedman ruled on March 21, 2014, the Michigan Marriage Amendment unconstitutional as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Some interesting numbers regarding to the same-sex marriage cases . . .

  • Following Judge Friedman’s March 2014 decision, over 300 same-sex couples in Michigan were legally married; these marriages were upheld in Caspar v Snyder.
  • Same sex marriage is legal in 37 states and Washington D.C.
  • The Supreme Court will answer two (2) 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?
  • 147 amicus briefs have been filed, about half of which support the continuation of the same sex marriage ban and the other half supporting marriage equality.

As we mentioned above, oral arguments will be held this Tuesday, April 28, 2015. We can expect that the United States will issue its decision on the issue of same-sex marriage in the United States early this summer. Stay tuned for updates.