January 6, 2014
The federal challenge to Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban will go to trial on February 25, and will be split into two parts, now that the judge hearing the case has granted a motion to bifurcate the proceedings.
Back in October, the judge held a hearing on the parties’ opposing motions for summary judgment, deciding ultimately to deny both of their motions, and instead of issuing a ruling at that time on the merits, holding a bench trial on the facts of the case and the rationales for the ban. The written order set the trial date for February 25, 2014.
The same-sex couple and their children filed a request for the case to be split into two parts: the first part for trying the facts related to the same-sex marriage and adoption ban and the rationales for the ban, and then, if the judge decided it was necessary, to hold the second part on the issue of the level of judicial scrutiny that should apply to cases involving gays and lesbians. The state opposed splitting up the trial into two parts, and argued that all evidence could be heard at the same time.
The judge’s latest order, issued Friday, grants the plaintiff’s motion, allowing the case to proceed to the question of the level of judicial scrutiny if the court decides that evidence would be necessary to resolve the dispute. While the state had argued that splitting the issues in this way might prejudice the judge, their arguments are outweighed by “the preservation of judicial and party resources should the disposition of the first trial render the heightened scrutiny testimony superfluous.”
The second part of the trial would focus largely on the criteria for heightened judicial scrutiny, such as whether gays and lesbians are sufficiently politically powerless, whether they have an immutable characteristic, and whether being gay or lesbian affects one’s ability to contribute to society.
The case is DeBoer v. Snyder.
Thanks to Kathleen Perrin for this filing
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