An attorney for two Detroit-area women has urged a judge to strike down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage and declare there are no "second-class citizens" under law.
Lawyers delivered opening statements Tuesday in a trial that challenges a 2004 constitutional amendment that recognizes marriage only between a man and a woman. April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse of suburban Detroit say the amendment violates their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Federal Judge Bernard Friedman has set aside two weeks to hear testimony from experts in the areas of economics, marriage and child-rearing.
Michigan Assistant Attorney General Kristin Heyse says it would be a mistake to overturn the will of the people. She says it wasn't a "whim of the few."
Federal judges in recent weeks have struck down gay marriage bans in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia without trials. At least 17 states and the District of Columbia now allow marriage by same-sex couples.
"Nothing says family like a marriage license," April DeBoer told reporters before entering the Detroit federal courthouse with Jayne Rowse, her partner of eight years.
The case began in 2012 when nurses Rowse, 49, and DeBoer, 42, of Hazel Park sued to try to upset a Michigan law that bars them from adopting each other's children. But the case became even more significant when Friedman invited them to add the same-sex marriage ban to their lawsuit.
They argue that Michigan's constitutional amendment, approved by voters in 2004, violates the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, which forbids states from treating people differently under the law.
"If marriage is a fundamental right, then logic and emerging Supreme Court precedent dictate that the legitimacy of two adults' love for one another is the same in the eyes of the law regardless of sexual orientation," attorneys for the couple said in a court filing last fall.
The state attorney general's office, meanwhile, is defending the election result.
"There is no dispute that there is a fundamental right to marry. But there is no fundamental right to marry a person of the same sex," the state said.