Lesbian couple challenges Michigan's gay-marriage ban in court
By James B. Kelleher
DETROIT (Reuters) - Michigan's ban on gay marriage perpetuates discrimination and should be overturned, an attorney representing a lesbian couple argued on Tuesday at the start of the latest in a series of legal challenges to U.S. laws banning same-sex unions.
But the state countered in U.S. District Court in Detroit that its law barring gay nuptials represented the "will of the people" who voted it into Michigan's constitution a decade ago.
U.S. attitudes and laws on same-sex unions have changed markedly over the past decade, with 17 states and the District of Columbia now allowing gay marriage, first made legal in Massachusetts in 2003.
In opposing gay marriage, the state has focused on the well-being of children, arguing that their interests are best served by having both a father and a mother, a position dismissed by gay rights advocates and their allies.
"No other group in society has to pass a parental competency test before they're allowed to marry," attorney Carole Stanyar, who represents the couple, said in an opening statement. "We would like this to be the last trial in America where same-sex couples have to defend themselves."
Assistant Michigan Attorney General Kristin Heyse defended the ban and urged U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman to leave it in place.
"This case is about one thing: the will of the people," Heyse said. "This was not the whim of a few."
Several dozen peaceful demonstrators marched in front of the courthouse as lawyers gathered for the trial. Some supporters of the law carried signs that read "We Support Traditional Marriage - One Man, One Woman," while opponents held signs urging the court to overturn the ban. Continued...