By Brian Dickerson (07.14.2013)
Last month, when he and four of his colleagues struck down a federal law that denied legal recognition of same-sex marriages, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy insisted their decision would have no impact on states that prohibit such unions.
But Justice Antonin Scalia, who was on the losing end of the 5-4 ruling in [italic]United States v. Windsor[/italic], wasn’t reassured. The Windsor majority’s conclusion that federal lawmakers who sought to outlaw same-sex marriage could have been motivated only by a “bare desire” to degrade and humiliate gay people, Scalia wrote in his dissent, made it inevitable that the same majority would ultimately reject all such bans.
“How easy it is, indeed how inevitable, to reach the same conclusion with regard to state laws denying same-sex couples’ marital status,” Scalia added bitterly. “It is just a matter of listening and waiting for the other shoe.”
If he’s right about the high court’s trajectory — and almost everyone on either side of the same-sex marriage controversy believes he is — Michigan may well be poised to serve up the shoe Scalia is dreading.
Michigan is just one of 37 states that either bars same-sex unions outright or provides only limited legal rights to couples who enter them. Lawsuits challenging those state bans are certain to come thick and fast in the Windsor ruling’s wake; just last week, 23 plaintiffs in Pennsylvania asked the U.S. District Court in Harrisburg to throw out their state’s ban.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is spearheading the Pennsylvania lawsuit, has promised to file similar challenges to same-sex bans in North Carolina and Virginia.
But the plaintiffs in those cases are more than a year behind April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, two Oakland County nurses who sued in 2012 to challenge the constitutionality of a Michigan statute that prohibits them from jointly adopting the three special-needs infants they had adopted individually.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan who was designated to hear the DeBoer case, told the couple that the more fundamental obstacle to their adoption plans was the constitutional ban on same-sex marriages Michigan voters adopted in 2004, and invited them to expand their lawsuit accordingly.