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Federal Judge Strikes Down Michigan Gay-Marriage Ban

A federal judge has struck down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage, making the state the latest to see such a prohibition overturned on constitutional grounds.

The Associated Press reports:

"[U.S. District] Judge Bernard Friedman ruled Friday, two weeks after a trial. Two Detroit-area nurses who've been partners for eight years claimed the ban violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution.

"It was not clear if gay marriages could begin immediately."

Kate Wells, of Michigan Public Radio, reports that Friedman said the ban had violated the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause.

Wells reports:

"In his ruling, Friedman says the ban does not advance any legitimate state interest.

"Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette — who argued in favor of the amendment — says he has filed an emergency request for the ruling to be put on hold while the decision is appealed to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals."

In his decision, Friedman writes that the state ban doesn't survive even the "most deferential level of scrutiny" under the Equal Protection Clause.

"Many Michigan residents have religious convictions whose principles govern the conduct of their daily lives and inform their own viewpoints about marriage," the judge acknowledged. "Nonetheless, these views cannot strip other citizens of the guarantees of equal protection under the law. The same Constitution that protects the free exercise of one's faith in deciding whether to solemnize certain marriages rather than others, is the same Constitution that prevents the state from ... mandating adherence to an established religion[.]"

The AP says there was no indication whether the judge had stayed his decision pending appeal, as happened last month in Texas, when a U.S. District Court judge there overturned a similar provision.

The Michigan ban was approved by 60 percent of the voters in a 2004 statewide referendum that recognized marriage as between a man and a woman.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia issue licenses for same-sex marriage.

Virgina's same-sex-marriage ban was also overturned in federal court last month, and in January, Oklahoma saw a similar law declared unconstitutional.

A challenge to a ban on same-sex marriage in North Carolina is waiting to be heard. And, in Oregon, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum says her office won't defend a state ban approved, like Michigan's, in a 2004 referendum.

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