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Saturday, March 08, 2014

Courts - Long same-sex marriage trial in Michigan ended Friday [Updated]

This Feb. 23rd ILB entry is headed "Federal trial begins Tuesday in Michigan same-sex marriage challenge."

Late yesterday afternoon, Steve Friess of BuzzFeed posted an update subheaded "Without the star power, location, and timing of the trial against California’s Proposition 8, the trial against Michigan’s marriage amendment has taken place under the radar. A decision in coming weeks could change all that." Some quotes:

[T]estimony in only the third courtroom trial over same-sex couples’ marriage rights in U.S. history abruptly ended with an understated flourish befitting proceedings that, for all their historic significance, nonetheless flew largely under the national radar when compared to the attention paid to similar cases in Virginia, Utah, and elsewhere.

The two-week trial – which now awaits a written decision from [ U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman] that he said wouldn’t come before March 17 – was the first such event since 2010 when a federal judge considered the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8. The first trial took place in Hawaii in the 1990s, but the result in support of marriage equality was never realized because Hawaii voters passed a constitutional amendment allowing the legislature to ban same-sex couples from marrying.

Prop 8, like the Michigan marriage statute, was a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage imposed by voters. The federal judge struck down the ban, and last June, the Supreme Court let that decision stand in dismissing the attempted appeal by supporters of the amendment.

Activists on both sides of the issue flocked to California for the Prop 8 case, each issuing a flurry of press releases at every turn. Helmed by big-name lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies, it was the subject of lawsuits over whether testimony should be broadcast live or at least on delay and later gave rise to a play written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and performed by an A-list Hollywood cast.

By contrast, the Michigan trial drew just a couple dozen protesters on both sides to a combined picket line outside the courthouse, often in freezing temperatures and brutal winds. The courtroom was rarely full, not even on Tuesday when attorneys for April DeBoer and Jane Rowse cross-examined controversial sociologist Mark Regnerus. Regnerus’ findings, which claim children fare worse when raised by same-sex couples than their married biological parents, have been called into question by academics and LGBT advocates but have been cited by opponents of same-sex couples’ marriage rights in several cases pending around the country. * * *

Regardless of the trial’s lower profile, it produced a litany of key moments that may impact the future of ongoing marriage litigation — including what most legal experts see as an inevitable Supreme Court case — depending on how Friedman rules. Should he strike down the ban, for instance, the withering cross-examinations undergone by Regnerus and other experts called by the state this week may be cited in briefs for cases in other states, [the plaintiffs' attorney Ken] Mogill said. * * *

Mogill was practical about whether this case would be the one heard at the Supreme Court — while pointing to advantages that the case’s posture would bring to the court.

“Having a factual record is significant as appellate courts consider these cases, certainly, and that’s something the judge was very cognizant of” when he decided not to issue a summary judgment in October, Mogill said. “We’re very happy with the state of the record in this case. We think it supports our position, and what the Supreme Court’s going to do, they’re going to do, and they’re going to do it when they do it. Whichever case gets there first is just absolutely fine.”

[Updated] Here is another story, this one from Erik Eckholm of the March 7th NY Times.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 8, 2014 12:39 PM
Posted to Courts in general