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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Friday, March 7, 2014

Federal Same Sex-Marriage Trial Reaches Closing Arguments

Judge Bernard Friedman
Sorting through the experts
This morning, closing arguments are scheduled in the same-sex marriage trial over which U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman has presided the past two weeks.  Judge Friedman, having denied cross motions for summary judgment in the case, gets to decide the constitutionality of two Michigan statutes: the ban on same-sex marriage [approved by a 57% voter initiative in 2004], and the prohibition of gay adoptions.

The trial began with the testimony of Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown; she indicated that she is prepared to "follow the law"
which, depending on how Judge Friedman rules, may include issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  [Note: the Law Blogger has been tracking this issue in other states like New Mexico where county clerks have been issuing such marriage licenses on the heels of post-Windsor federal court rulings striking state law bans on gay marriage.]

Brown, also a defendant in the case, has made her personal views known: she believes that gay couples are denied marriage licenses unfairly.  She testified about a state-wide memo issued by the Michigan Attorney General last fall to Michigan's 82 county clerks instructing them not to issues such licenses, regardless of how Judge Friedman decided the DeBoer case.

Other than the one county clerk, the trial has consisted of a parade of expert witnesses.  Select sociologists, professors and legal experts all had their moments to shine during the trial.  While this has been a quick trial, we here at the Law Blogger wonder whether these experts have aided the trier of fact in deciding the case, or whether they have polluted Judge Friedman's courtroom with junk science.

For their part, experts for the gay parents have attempted to blackboard data in support of their equal protection claim that children raised by gay parents have measurable outcomes on a par with traditional parents.  The Plaintiffs' experts have also drawn parallels with interracial families, concluding that Michigan should join what these experts depict as a strong trend toward social acceptance of gay marriages.

Experts for the state, on the other hand, painted a consensus that no reliable sociological data yet exists to support the Plaintiff's case; they also contend that traditional families, with a Mom and Dad, have the best child outcomes, citing to statistical reports they say support this conclusion.

Finding his testimony would, "add nothing to the case", Judge Friedman disqualified the state's first expert, Catholic philosopher and author Sherif Gergis.   Then there was the state's final expert, Canadian economist Douglas Allen; he testified, unequivocally, that unrepentant gay couples faced eternal damnation.

Is Judge Friedman now better informed?  Or does he have to digest a full-plate of junk science, with religious seasoning?

Soon, we'll all know whether Michigan's anti-gay statutes will pass constitutional muster; at least at the initial trial stage.  Then its on to the appeals, where the DeBoer case will be consolidated with other similar cases percolating through the Sixth Circuit here in Michigan, and in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

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