Part of any trial is to specify what both sides agree to so those points are not included in the debate. A section of these stipulations:
The parties stipulated to the fact that: both April and Jayne were licensed foster parents; they had been in a relationship for 8 years; that the home is stable and loving; that each of them had adoption at least one child; that it is a problem that they are not both legal parents of all the children, especially when a child had an urgent medical need; that the lack of legal status keeps the children from accessing the health insurance of the non-legal parent; that if the non-legal parent dies, the other would have no legal right to visitation or custody; that the children do not have inheritance or Social Security rights from either non-legal parent; and that this causes stress and anxiety in the family and causes risk and instability to the children. These are all of the things that the State agrees are true.
First witness for the couple is Prof. Vivek Sankoran of University of Michigan Child Advocacy Law Clinic. His main point: it is not possible to create extra documents that protect the relationship between a child and the non-legal parent. That relationship protection would come automatically through marriage. This case came about because the women have each adopted children who are legal strangers to the other parent. Michigan refuses these cross-adoptions.
Gary Gates is an expert on LGBT demographics, so his testimony had lots of statistics. The source of much of his data is the US Census. Some of what he said:
* The number of people who are willing to tell the Census they are gay doubled from 1990 to 2000 and doubled again in 2010.
* There are 2650 same-sex couples in Michigan raising over 5300 kids.
* Lesbians are more willing to adopt than straight women and are more willing to adopt special-needs kids, which is what the couple at the center of the case have done.
* An amazing (the word used in the blog) 1/3 of all same-sex couples in Utah married in the 17 days that it was legal.
Professor Nancy Cott is a historian specializing in gender questions. So she talked about the history of marriage. There has been lots of talk on this subject over the last several years, so these are a few things I learned or are important to the case.
* Marriage is both a private contract and a public one. The private part means that when something happens to one spouse the other will take care and the state doesn't have to. The state is involved because there are economic and social order aspects to the contract.
* Procreation, or even sexual intimacy, do not validate the marriage.
* Religion is not a part of marriage law other than a religion may impose requirements only on its own members.
* Marriage is such a moving target there isn't much to be said for tradition. Cott explains a few ways marriage has changed, such as marriage is no longer seen as a hierarchy with the man over the woman. Current laws are hierarchy and gender neutral.
* Divorce used to be granted because of a fault in the state side of the contract -- such as a man refusing to care for the wife (which means the state must). No-fault divorce in 1971 meant the focus shifted from the state to the consent of the parties.
* Church people used to claim that God ordained that races shouldn't mix. That led to laws preventing whites from marrying any other race. But the laws didn't ban, for example, a Native American from marrying a black.
As is typical for many trials, after the plaintiffs conclude their case the defendants say to the judge the plaintiffs haven't shown us anything. They don't have a case. Please dismiss the case now and save us all the hassle of continuing the trial. As is usual the judge took the comment under advisement and said the trial will continue.
Lisa Brown is the Oakland County Clerk and was the one who refused to issue a marriage license to this lesbian couple. Therefore she is a defendant in the case. Not that she agrees with the state. She testified she is itching (my word) to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as the court tells her she can. She has already designed gender neutral forms (stuck in the Attorney General's office). In this matter she will not obey the AG because he is not her boss. She also says that lots of straight couples apply for licenses who probably shouldn't, but she isn't allowed to deny a license. There is no box to check on intent to procreate, not for intent to have sex, not background check, not for health of previous kids, not for child abuse history, not for pedophilia, not for unpaid child support, not for arrest warrants. Just a driver's license and $20.
When discussing the state's witnesses, the author of the blog repeatedly refers to the actions of the AG. Does this imply Bill Schuette was handling the questioning, or was it someone from his office? I don't know.
The state's first witness was Sherif Girgis. It might have been interesting to hear his thoughts on how to promote male-female bonds without resorting to religion or animus. Even so, the plaintiffs challenged him. He might have some fascinating ideas, but he isn't an expert in anything. The judge agreed and dismissed him.
Next was Mark Regnerus, the state's star witness. The proceedings carefully went over how his study was done, what it found, why other scientists challenged it (which seemed to mystify the author), and who funded it. I won't go into details.
One aspect I haven't covered before is his idea of diminished kinship. In a same-sex couple at least one of them is not biologically related to the child. Therefore (he says) that increases the risk of not having a thriving child. However, he has no objections to step-parents, as long as there is one man and one woman.
As part of cross-examination he was asked about other aspects of a marriage that might not be ideal for the child. That included families with reduced resources and less education. But that, he says, is not a reason to deny marriage. In short, he has this thing against gay people. At times he sounds like a petulant kid -- I'm right and they're wrong because … well … because!
The next witness was Dr. Joseph Price of Brigham Young University, a Mormon school. His specialty is the outcomes of children of same-sex couples. I think he is hung up on stereotypes of the differences in the way mothers and fathers treat their children. Note that when I read this post there seemed to be a confusion between 35% more and 35 times more.
Author Jane Bassett was not in the court on Wednesday, March 5, trial day 7. So no testimony of that day was posted.
State witness Dr. Douglas Allen appeared on Thursday. His specialty is applied economics. He has worked with organizations related to the National Organization for Marriage, a primary participant in efforts to deny marriage equality. The main part of his testimony is why most of the same-sex parent studies that show the kids do just as well are unreliable. Science hasn't shown anything conclusive.
There is a lengthy cross examination, but I'm not sure what it all means. There was a bit toward the end that caught my attention: This witness believes that if a person commits homosexual acts he or she is permanently separated from God and will go to Hell. That's a sufficient summary for me.
That was the last of the witnesses. Closing arguments were today, but not included in the blog (though one could go back to opening arguments). Yesterday the judge said he would welcome additional briefs through Monday. Which meant he could not issue a ruling today, and he didn't.
I heard the judge is departing for two weeks of vacation. I don't remember the source. So he is either writing the ruling while on vacation or it will be a while before we get a ruling.