Robert was honored to stand alongside two pioneers in the fight for Marriage Equality. He believes that being able to marry the person one loves is a basic human right. As a State Representative, Robert will work tirelessly until there is equality for all in Michigan. Text of the full article below.
Robert, seen above with Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, the plaintiffs in the DeBoer v. Snyder case.
MIRS Capitol Capsule Headlines
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
(DETROIT) -- U.S. District Court Judge Bernard FRIEDMAN today declined to issue an opinion from the bench on the state's prominent gay marriage case, instead offering to expedite a trial on the subject. The case is slated to start in February.
"I can't grant a motion for summary judgment, because I do believe there are issues that have to be decided that are fact issues," said Friedman, who denied each side's motion for summary disposition.
Jayne ROWSE and April DeBOER initially filed suit in January of 2012 because they wanted to jointly adopt their three children, currently banned under state law. Michigan allows single parent, but not same-sex parent adoption.
However, the case later broadened to include an attempt to overturn the state's constitutional restrictions on marriage being between one man and one woman, which was passed by the voters in 2004. A state law disallowing same-sex marriages was already on the books at the time.
The state today, led by Assistant Attorney General Kristen HEYSE, argued that although Rowse and DeBoer were good parents, the court should not overturn a vote of the people.
"There is no fundamental right to same-sex marriage or adoption," said Heyse.
She said the Legislature would be a more appropriate forum if Rowse and DeBoer want to overturn the amendment banning gay marriage.
Carole STANYAR, attorney for the plaintiffs, said experts agreed that gay parents were good parents, but Rowse and DeBoer were being denied the right to marry based only on sexual orientation.
"These marriage bans, every day that this goes on, are hurting the most vulnerable members of our society," said Stanyar.
Friedman indicated he would like to begin a trial on Feb. 25, to the sighs and groans of some audience members. He had earlier delayed in anticipation of a Supreme Court decision (See "Judge Delays Gay Marriage Case," 3/7/13).
Before the trial today, reporters asked Rowse and DeBoer what it felt like to have become the face of the gay marriage argument. Stories on this subject have run nationally.
"We didn't set up to be this celebrity couple, as somebody told me the other day. We just set out to do what's right for our kids," said DeBoer.
Outside of the courthouse before the trial, around 100 people gathered in support of DeBoer and Rowse.
"I don't know if we'll see justice today, but I do know that the God who has written the script will not let injustice win," said Rev. Jamie HAWLEY, a chaplain at the University of Michigan hospital affiliated with the United Church of Christ.
He and a handful of other faith leaders spoke in favor of gay marriage from a religious perspective.
Also on hand were some candidates for state representative: Robert WITTENBERG who is running in the 27th and Natalie MOSHER who is running in the 21st.
The lone protestor on the other side of the issue had feared she would be the only one here arguing against gay marriage, and she was.
"Being a lone voice for God here. Standing by my biblical principles," said Christine WEICK of Hopkins.
She said she knew others who supported her fight against gay marriage with lip service, but they weren't willing to come out and hold signs.
"We're going to end up like Sodom & Gomorrah if we keep letting it drift like this," said Weick, referencing the Bible.
Equality Michigan today reacted with hope, saying the eventual ruling could have a profound impact.
"We remain hopeful that Judge Friedman will come to the same conclusion as a majority of Michigan voters, that treating LGBT couples as second-class citizens in Michigan helps no one. Denying this couple full legal recognition of their relationship only makes daily life more challenging for the DeBoer-Rowse family, and especially for the three children that April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse have given a loving home," said Emily DIEVENDORF, managing director for Equality Michigan.
Some, including members of the Legislature, were more disappointed that the judge did not issue a ruling.
"While I am disappointed that justice was delayed for countless Michigan families today, I look forward to a trial that will allow us to prove -- once and for all -- that Michigan's ban on marriage equality is unfair, unjust and unconstitutional," said Rep. Kate SEGAL (D-Battle Creek).
Rep. Jeff IRWIN (D-Ann Arbor) called on the Legislature to pass a bill on second-parent adoption.
"It's a shame, and unconstitutional, that children have fewer rights when they're adopted by parents who cannot marry," Irwin said. "Although I'm confident that equality will eventually triumph over discrimination, it's a wrong that Michigan families have to wait even longer for equal treatment under the law."