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Michigan's gay marriage ban going to trial

By The Associated Press

This article was published February 24, 2014 at 4:22 p.m.

DETROIT — Michigan's nearly decade-old ban on gay marriage is going to trial Tuesday, with two weeks set aside for testimony from experts about whether there's a legitimate state interest in restricting marriage to a man and a woman.

Same-sex couples poised for a favorable ruling last fall had lined up for marriage licenses across Michigan, only to be stunned when U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said he wanted to hold a trial. Since then, judges in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia have struck down bans on gay marriage. At least 17 states and the District of Columbia now allow it.

In Michigan, two Detroit-area nurses are challenging the state's ban, which was approved by 59 percent of voters in 2004. They sued in 2012 to try to overturn a law that bars them from adopting each other's children, but the case was expanded at Friedman's invitation to include same-sex marriage.

"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 April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse said in a court filing last fall.

They argue that Michigan's constitutional amendment violates the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, which forbids states from treating people differently under the law.

The state attorney general's office, meanwhile, is defending the 2004 election result.

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