Showing posts with label Michigan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michigan. Show all posts

March 31, 2017

Lawyer Looses License Because of Anti Gay Hostility Towards Client

A former lawyer with the state of Michigan has lost his law license in a misconduct case related to his public hostility for a gay student leader at the University of Michigan.
Andrew Shirvell’s disbarment was ordered Thursday by a panel at the Attorney Discipline Board. He can appeal to the full board.
Shirvell was an assistant attorney general. He was fired in 2010 after criticizing Christopher Armstrong on an anti-gay blog, on Facebook and during visits to the Ann Arbor campus.
 Shirvell said he was exercising free-speech rights. But the panel at the discipline board says his motive was “dishonest or selfish,” not simply careless.
A message seeking comment was left with his attorney. In a separate matter, a jury in 2012 ordered Shirvell to pay $4.5 million to Armstrong

March 24, 2014

Full Story of What’s going on in Michigan and Gay Marriage


PONTIAC, MI -- It was fun while it lasted for hundreds of gay Michigan couples who got married Saturday.
With a voter-approved ban against same-sex nuptials out of the way for about 24 hours, couples rushed to tie the knot in four Michigan counties where clerks held special weekend hours to issue marriage licenses.

But an appeals court put a stop to the immediate wedding planning, issuing a temporary stay of U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman's Friday ruling that called the Michigan Marriage Act unconstitutional.

Friedman issued a decision that rejected all of the state's arguments that voters made a rational decision in approving the law in 2004, and went as far as praising the plaintiffs for seeking to "ensure that the state may no longer impair the rights of their children and the thousands of others now being raised by same-sex couples."

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse of Hazel Park sued the state because they can't jointly adopt their three kids in Michigan. They feared that if one parent were to die, the other may not get custody of all three children without a legal marriage.

The state immediately after the late Friday afternoon court decision filed notice of appeal and an emergency motion for a stay of Friedman's ruling.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the plaintiffs to file a response by Tuesday and put the gay marriage ban back in effect through Wednesday, "to allow a more reasoned consideration of the motion."

But hundreds of couples managed to legally get hitched Saturday before the late afternoon halt.

'Excited and sad'

Glenna DeJong and Marsha Caspar of Lansing were the first gay couple ever to be legally married in Michigan.

"We're just one of a long line of states who are realizing that gay people have rights too, the same rights as heterosexuals," DeJong said just after marrying her partner of 27 years in a short, emotional ceremony held in the hallway of the Ingham County Courthouse in Mason.

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum married the couple. She said she decided to open her office to issue marriage licenses Saturday after a sleepless Friday night.

"So many people have been waiting long enough, and it seemed the more I thought about it, the more absurd it seemed to make them wait," Byrum said.


Same-sex couples get married at Muskegon's Harbor Unitarian Universalist church
Same-sex couples lined up to be married at Muskegon's Harbor Unitarian Universalist church March 22, 2014.
Clerks in Washtenaw, Oakland and Muskegon counties did the same.
Muskegon County Clerk Nancy Waters was still processing couples and had to turn people away when word of the stay came just before 5 p.m.

"The stay stopped me from continuing," she said. "These people that are married, are married."

Sherrie Tyler of Commerce Township had guessed a stay would come quickly.

"We're glad we were able to get in today and take care of this," she said as she waited to apply for a marriage license with her partner of 30 years Pennye Mattson in a long line of elated couples at the Oakland County Clerk's office Saturday morning.

"I didn't think it would happen in my lifetime," Tyler said before making her way to the counter and filing the paperwork.

Christa Moran and Mel Whalen of Ann Arbor weren't as lucky.


First gay marriage in Ann Arbor
Elizabeth Patten and Johnnie Terry, both of Ann Arbor, are the first gay couples to be married about 9:25 a.m. Saturday, March 22, 2014 in the Washtenaw County Clerk's Office in downtown Ann Arbor. U.S. 6th Circuit Court Judge Judith Levy officiated the ceremony.
The couple of eight years got to the Washtenaw County clerk's office at 8:45 a.m., but were turned away when the special Saturday hours ended at 1 p.m.
They could have a much longer wait ahead if the stay is extended through the appeals process.

"(A marriage license) solidifies what we mean to each other, and that the state recognizes and values that," Whalen, who is deaf, said through her interpreter.

Though they were number 56 in line, the clerk was honoring numbers given to couples who waited in line at the office Oct. 16, 2013, in the hopes that a court ruling that day would allow them to marry.

"We're excited and sad, at the same time," Moran said.

'Forever binding'

DeBoer and Rowse chose not to get married Saturday, saying they'll wait through the appeals process, even if it takes years.

"We will be getting married - when we know that our marriage is forever binding," DeBoer said.

They're lawyer Dana Nessel said the stay order was disappointing, but not unexpected.

"I am disappointed because it would have been great for people ... in all 83 counties to be able to go in and get a marriage license," she said.

Rev. Jeff Liebmann, a Midland pastor who had been preparing to officiate same-sex marriages on Monday, was frustrated by the latest court order.

"This puts us back for what we've been preparing for for two weeks," he said. "The moment it's allowed and the stay is lifted and the office is opened, we are all descending down to the clerk's office as quick as possible. So as soon as it is lifted, we will be back to our plan."

Other Michigan clergymen viewed the developments differently.

"While our faith teaches us to treat individuals with same-sex attraction with respect, compassion and sensitivity, we also are called to defend the divine institution of marriage between one man and one woman," said Bishop Paul J. Bradley of the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo, calling Friedman's ruling "unfortunate and regrettable."

(Full, ongoing coverage of Michigan's gay marriage developments here.)

Bishop David Walkowiak of the Diocese of Grand Rapids said Friedman's ruling sought to alter "the fundamental meaning and structure of marriage that has existed from the beginning,"

"The biological realities of male and female together with the complementarity they bring to the institution of marriage allow for the natural procreation of children and the opportunity for the child to be nurtured and to learn from a mother and a father, each of whom brings unique gifts to the family, the fundamental building block of society," he said.

'Integrity and closeness'

Friedman rejected state arguments that voters in approving the ban rationally sought to promote an "optimal environment" for child rearing; to "proceed with caution" before altering marriage law; and to "uphold tradition and morality."

"None of these proffered reasons provides a rational basis for adopting the amendment," wrote Friedman. "... Prohibiting gays and lesbians from
marrying does not stop them from forming families and raising children. Nor does prohibiting same-sex marriage increase the number of heterosexual marriages or the number of children raised by heterosexual parents. There is, in short, no logical connection between banning same-sex marriage and providing children with an 'optimal environment' or achieving 'optimal outcomes.'"


Rowse and DeBoer after gay marriage ruling
Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer speak at an LGBT community center in Ferndale after a federal judge strikes down Michigan's gay marriage ban.
Nolan Rowse, 5, Jacob Rowse, 4, and Ryanne DeBoer, 4, were watching the movie "Wall-E" in their Hazel Park play room when news of Friedman's ruling came.
The joyous shouts and tears of their parents only upset Ryanne and annoyed the boys, too young to understand the impact of a case that revolved around them.

"It is the Court's fervent hope that these children will grow up 'to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives,'" Friedman wrote in his ruling, quoting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion in the June 2013 ruling that struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

"Today's decision is a step in that direction, and affirms the enduring principle that regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail."

'Cloud of uncertainty'

Michigan was briefly the 18th state allowing gay couples to marry, but now joins four other states, Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia and Texas, that have had courts overturn gay marriage bans, but with rulings stayed pending appeal.

Another 17 states and Washington D.C. allow same-sex marriage without restriction, legalized by popular vote in three states, legislative action in eight and court decisions in six.

In Utah, after a federal judge struck down that state's gay marriage ban and the U.S. Supreme Court imposed a stay two weeks later, same-sex marriages that took place during the gap were no longer recognized.

It was unclear whether that will happen in Michigan.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette warned about the uncertainty in his request for an immediate stay of Friedman's order.

"Should a stay not be granted, marriage licenses would be issued under a cloud of uncertainty, the State would face administrative burdens, and actions taken in reliance on the licenses would impact employers, creditors, and others," he wrote.

His spokesperson Joy Yearout would only say after the stay was issued Saturday: "The courts will sort it out."


Attorney General Bill Schuette in Saginaw
Attorney General Bill Schuette speaks to Saginaw County Republicans at the group's annual Lincoln Day Breakfast Saturday, March 22, at the Saginaw Country Club. Schuette talked about his work as attorney general, including his fight to uphold Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage, and announced his campaign for reelection in 2014.
Schuette said earlier in the day during a Saginaw Republican gathering that he expects the case to ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.
"Marriage is between a man and a woman, something that our courts seem to be struggling with," he said.

Meanwhile, after two years of court processes, a nine-day trial, a two-week wait for a ruling and a hectic Saturday, married and engaged gay couples across Michigan were still left unsure about their future.

"It sucks," said a blunt Denise Phillips of Detroit, who wants to marry her partner of four years. "We've been waiting."

Friedman's ruling, she said, signified to her that "some people are starting to be more open to other lifestyles."

"It's really not a sin to be a bisexual or a homosexual," she said. "People take the whole Sodom and Gomorrah thing to the wrong level."

MLive reporters Melissa Anders in Mason, Stephen Kloosterman in Muskegon, Amy Biolchini in Ann Arbor, Bob Johnson in Midland, Rosemary Parker in Kalamazoo, Monica Scott in Grand Rapids, Gus Burns in Detroit, Mark Tower in Saginaw, Jonathan Oosting in Lansing and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow MLive Detroit reporter Khalil AlHajal on Twitter @DetroitKhalil or on Facebook at Detroit Khalil. He can be reached at or 313-643-0527.

March 2, 2014

Majority of Michigan Residents Support Gay Marriage

A majority of Michigan residents support gay marriage a decade after voters approved a constitutional ban that is now on trial, according to the results of a new statewide survey, and those supporters appear to be growing more confident in their beliefs.
Results from Michigan State University's latest State of the State Survey, released Friday, suggest that 54 percent of residents favor "the right of gay and lesbian couples to be legally married," while 36 percent are opposed.
The survey of 1,008 residents, conducted via landline and cellphone over an eight-week period ending February 10, has a margin of error of 3.1 percent. Ten percent of respondents were undecided.
The new numbers are similar to State of the State findings from 2012, when 55 percent of respondents said they supported gay marriage and 39 percent opposed it, but they are significantly higher than in 2010, when a majority of respondents still said they opposed same-sex marriage.
While the overall numbers have not changed much in two years, more residents now say they "strongly" support -- as opposed to "somewhat" support -- gay marriage, according to MSU Economics Professor Charles Ballard.
"The support has sort of coalesced, or strengthened," said Ballard, who directs the survey. "It's the first time we've seen numbers this large. More than 35 percent say not just that they favor gay marriage, but that they strongly favor it."
Back in 2004, more than 58 percent of Michigan voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Backers say that gay marriage polls can be misleading because some respondents are uncomfortable expressing opinions they might act on in the voting booth.
Michigan's same-sex marriage ban is now on trial before a federal judge in Detroit, who is considering a challenge filed on behalf of two Hazel Park nurses alleging discrimination and seeking joint custody of their adopted children. They are not allowed to marry, but Michigan law only allows joint adoption by married couples.
The MSU survey did not make specific reference to joint adoption or the rights of heterosexual couples, but it did ask residents whether they favor allowing gay and lesbians to adopt children. Roughly 59 percent of respondents offered support, while 33 percent expressed opposition.
The survey showed a significant shift in gay marriage attitudes amongst black residents, with 47 percent of respondents offering support, up from just 31 percent in 2012.
Residents with some college education were more likely to favor same-sex marriage, with 56 percent expressing support compared to 49 percent of residents who had never been to college.
Gay marriage was supported by 86 percent of respondents who said they had no religious preference, 55 percent who identified themselves as Catholic and 42 percent of protestants.
There was also a notable difference amongst age groups, with 68 percent of respondents under the age of 30 expressing support for same-sex marriage, compared to 46.9 percent of those 65 and older.
“I'd say that there is definitely a generational component to it," said Ballard.

Jonathan Oosting | joosting@mlive.comBy Jonathan Oosting | 
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Jonathan Oosting is a Capitol reporter for MLive Media Group. 

October 17, 2013

Michigan Judge Refuses to Ban Gay Marriage Quoting Supreme Court, Promises Trial

The issue landed in the hands of U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, who in June refused to toss out a lesbian couple's lawsuit challenging the state's ban on adoption by unmarried couples. Friedman, citing the June U.S. Supreme Court decision that recognized legally married gay couples, concluded the plaintiffs are "entitled to their day in court and they shall have it."
 federal judge said Wednesday that the fate of Michigan's ban on gay marriage will be decided in a trial Feb. 25, disappointing gay-rights activists who thought his decision would be immediate.
The women want the right to pursue their dream of having a family while the state's position is that only men and women can marry and have children.
At an afternoon hearing, Friedman was expected to decide on the constitutionality of Michigan's ban on gay marriage and determine whether or not the state is unlawfully discriminating against two nurses who want to get married and adopt each others' children.
"I'm in the middle. I have to decide this as a matter of law. I intend to do so," Friedman said. But he also said that he would not rule now.
If Friedman had lifted the ban without issuing a stay, same-sex marriage would have legal in Michigan until, and unless, a higher court overturned it. As of now the status quo remains: no gay marriage in Michigan.
Kristin Heyse with state Attorney General Bill Schuette's office said Michigan's position is not an attack on the gay community and said the plaintiffs are doing a wonderful job raising their children. Instead, the question is who gets to decide the state's law, the people or the court.
In 2004, 59% of voters approved a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage as "the union of one man and one woman."
The court can't disregard previous cases where the state's authority to define marriage was upheld, Heyse said.
Lawyer Carole Stanyar, speaking for plaintiffs April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, said the U.S. Supreme Court has provided guidance for the court. She said the will of the people should not be disregarded, but precedent allows for scrutiny of laws that may be unconstitutional.
"These marriage bans ... are hurting the most vulnerable members of our society," Stanyar said.
The case involves DeBoer, 42, and Rowse, 48, who in January 2012 challenged the state's ban on same-sex adoption. They later decided also to take on the the state's ban on gay marriage.
"We're cautiously optimistic that a ruling will come," Dana Nessel, one of four lawyers representing the plaintiffs, said before the hearing. "When you have waited this long for some semblance of equality, you kind of want it right now. You don't want to wait any longer."
Whatever Friedman decides in February, an appeal will follow. The state has vowed a vigorous fight to uphold the 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment, arguing it has "legitimate state interests" in defining marriage.
"Michigan supports natural procreation and recognizes that children benefit from being raised by parents of each sex who can then serve as role models of the sexes both individually and together in matrimony," the state has argued in court documents.
The plaintiffs argue the ban unlawfully violates their right under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution to get married and adopt each others' children. Rowse has two preschool-aged boys; DeBoer has a 3-year-old girl. They also argue the state has no rational basis for denying them the right to get married and adopt kids.
"We don't see ourselves as poster women for anything," DeBoer said to cheers as they arrived outside the federal courthouse. "If anything, we're poster women for our children and the rights of children like ours in Michigan."
As soon as the court grants her power, Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown, a defendant in the case, will issue licenses to same-sex couples, her lawyer told the judge.
Nessel believes that the gay and lesbian community in Michigan has suffered long enough from discrimination. She believes a ruling favoring her clients could trigger long overdue positive changes for gays and lesbians the state that she contends has among the worst records for gay and lesbian rights.
"It's very critical that we have a federal court step in and say, 'No, you cannot use your laws to discriminate against what has historically been an unpopular segment of society,' " she said.
To date, 14 states have legalized gay marriage, according to, a nonprofit and nonpartisan group that researches controversial issues. Another 35 states, including Michigan, have gay marriage bans through either laws or constitutional amendments. Only one state, New Mexico, has no law legalizing or banning same-sex marriage.
The New Jersey Supreme Court said it will soon decide whether gays can marry there, and a Utah federal judge in December will hear arguments about that state's ban.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two landmark same-sex marriage rulings: one directed the federal government to provide equal treatment to same-sex spouses, the other allowed gay marriages in California to resume.
In a 5-4 ruling, the nation's highest court struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to gay couples married under state law. The court found that gay couples married in states where it's legal must receive the same health, tax, and other benefits offered to their heterosexual counterparts.
However, the high court rulings haven't deterred Schuette from fighting to uphold the state's constitutional amendment.
"The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states retain the constitutional authority to define marriage," Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout said. "We will continue to aggressively defend Michigan's Constitution in this case."
Gary Glenn, who leads the conservative American Family Association of Michigan, said it would be a mistake for a judge to extinguish a law on the books for nearly a decade.
"One Detroit lawyer in a black robe doesn't have the legitimate constitutional or moral authority to overturn the will of millions of Michigan voters," Glenn said.
In Ann Arbor, the Washtenaw County clerk's office said judges and clergy had planned to be available at the local courthouse if Friedman had allowed immediate same-sex marriage.
"There's obviously a lot of emotion, and a lot of people have been waiting a long time," said Ed Golembiewski, chief deputy clerk.
Bishop Jerry Brohl of Blessed John XIII Community, a church for Christians of all stripes in Wyandotte, near Detroit, said he would be eager to bless same-sex marriages, even if he doesn't know the couple.
"Under normal circumstances, I'd want to spend a bit more time with a couple," he said. "But under these circumstances, I feel I need to make an exception. You have two mature persons who are committing themselves to a relationship based on love."
Contributing: Niraj Warkioo, Detroit Free Press; The Associated Press

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