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Sunday, December 11, 2016

By Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — The fate of Michigan’s gay-marriage ban is officially in the hands of a federal judge, who on Tuesday heard opening statements in a case that will decide what marriage means in Michigan, and whether voters have a right to exclude gays and lesbians from forming that union and raising a family.

Voters in Michigan have already voted against gay-marriage — a point that state attorney Kristin Heyse hammered away in her opening statements. She argued it is not irrational for voters to want to define marriage as being a union only between a man and a woman. Nor is it irrational for the state to want to preserve the traditional family structure: a mom and a dad.

But same-sex marriage proponents argue the ban is unconstitutional and needs to be overturned.

“Our marriage ban did not happen in a vacuum: The proponents of the ban fully intended to exclude this politically unpopular group,” argued Carol Stanyar, one of several lawyers who is fighting to overturn Michigan’s bans on same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption.

On the latter point, Stanyar argued that no other group has to undergo a competency test to have children, and that gays and lesbians shouldn’t, either. She also stressed repeatedly that there is no proof that same-sex couples aren’t just as loving and nurturing as heterosexual parents, nor that kids raised by gays and lesbians fare worse than those raised by heterosexuals.

Stanyar is representing two female nurses who are fighting for the right to marry and adopt each others’ children.

“It’s hard to imagine how the adult plaintiffs in this case could be contributing any more. They took in babies who were left behind,” Stanyar told U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman. “These two women are heroes. And they’re not alone. All these families should be embraced. They should be supported. They should be celebrated.”

To bolster that argument, Stanyar offered the testimony of David Brodzinsky, a seasoned psychologist and child development expert who has researched adoption and family structure for more than three decades.