Judge Bars Michigan’s First Witness in Gay Marriage Ban Challenge: Nothing to Offer

A federal judge in Michigan rejected the state's first witness in the two week trial challenging the ban on gay marriage and gay adoption, the Detroit Free Press reports:

Girgis“He’s very eloquent … but right now, all he is offering to us is mainly his opinions,” U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said of the witness. “The court does not believe … that he should be allowed to testify.”

This came as a blow to the state in the case, in which two female nurses are seeking to overturn Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage so that they can marry and adopt each others’ children.

The state had planned on having its first witness – Sherif Girgis – on the stand for up to two hours. Prior to getting dismissed, Girgis spent about 20 minutes on the stand listing his credentials, most of which included lecturing and writing academic papers on the philosophical debate surrounding the definition of marriage. He also has written a book, “What is Marriage, Man & Woman in Defense.”

But Friedman dismissed the witness following arguments from the plaintiffs side, who noted that Girgis is not a lawyer, child development expert, psychologist or expert in Michigan law. He has no experience in the issues that matter in this case, the plaintiffs argued.


Mark Regnerus, the UT researcher, whose rightwing-funded, flawed and biased parenting studies have been thoroughly discredited, is supposedly up next and the trial is to resume at 1 pm.


  1. Lee says

    Agree with the judge. He wrote a book, so what? Good call, actually as it could have hurt the case further down the road if his testimony was later stricken.

  2. Håkon says

    The judge decided well. From what I can understand, Girgis is currently a third-year Yale philosophy and law graduate student… So not an actual lawyer / philosopher yet.

  3. John says

    I hope Regnerus is allowed to testify. The destruction of his claims needs to be part of the trial record.

    “The witness stand, under oath, is a lonely place to lie.” — David Boies

  4. Bill says

    Guys, don’t criticize Regnerus until we see what he says. The data in his study is actually useful for supporting same-sex marriage. Regnerus interviewed adults to see how those with various types of parents did, and when those adults were children, same-sex marriage either didn’t exist or was very rare, and hardly any of those in his study were raised in stable households with two male or two female parents.

    Nearly all the cases in which a child had a gay parent was one in which an existing marriage failed and the child may have been raised by the straight parent after the breakup. Meanwhile his data seems to show that adults whose parents were divorced turned out about the same regardless of whether one of the parents was gay.

    If Regnerus gives an accurate assessment (and if he doesn’t initially, cross examination will drag it out of him), it will end up being an argument for same-sex marriage, not against it, or at worst it will be neutral as in “we didn’t find anything relevant to the issue.”

    The religious nuts have been using statements in his paper as sound bytes, taking advantage of some poor terminology by not stating the definition used in the paper and what that actually means. That won’t work in court.

  5. anon says

    Not a lawyer? I guess if he were a lawyer, he’d be qualified to testify on anything.

    If this were a jury trial, he’d have been allowed on the stand even if he’s was completely unqualified. So, you can see that judge’s don’t value the time of the jury equally to their own time, and will waste it automatically.

  6. Bill says

    @ (the alleged) MARCUS BACHMANN : Maybe we shouldn’t be too hard on Sherif Girgis given the tidbit about his girlfriend. He looks young enough, like many straight guys in that age group, to be thinking with the organ between his legs than the one between his ears. He have might figured that writing that stuff would impress her and get him to one more ‘base’ than he managed previously.

    Meanwhile, like Regnerus, why pass up a gig, particularly if (as an expert witness) someone else is paying for it?

  7. woody says

    Gergis is one of Robert George’s student disciples at Princeton. George uses him and Ryan Anderson as mouthpieces so as to make NOM appear to have youth support.
    George is the man behind NOM; he has come up with the underlying talking points based on a regressive understanding of Catholic morality.
    Having Gergis testify would be having NOM testify.

  8. Lexis says

    Good call. And similarly, I’ve never understood why any judge or legislature has allowed testimony related to religious beliefs and traditions in such cases.

  9. JackFknTwist says

    From what I know ‘opinion evidence’ is not admissible;
    the evidential exception to this rule is ‘expert evidence’……that is “experts” are allowed to give opinions because the subject is within their competence.
    But such witnesses must give their credentials first, to prove they are experts and that their evidence is thus admissible.
    obviously the Judge did not accept this guy as an expert in anything.
    His opinions are thus of no relevance.

  10. simon says

    His mentor Robert George was past chairmen of NOM. The right-wing Repugs and Catholic bishops lauded him as the greatest philosopher on Earth. These people of course have poor taste. They may not have heard of Bertrand Russell who had a completely different view on religion.

  11. Marco Luxe says

    He should thank Judge Friedman for saving him from total academic self destruction on cross examination. Just ask David Blankenhorn of Prop 8 trial infamy. Once a court records its rejection of expert testimony as a waste of time, there’s no way to escape it.

  12. Randy says

    Wow. That’s even worse than the Prop 8 case, where the witnesses who weren’t too embarrassed by their own opinions were at least competent enough to testify.

  13. Bill says

    @Randy: the “karma bit him back” expert witness in the Prop 8 trial was William Tam, one of the initiatives sponsors who put himself into the case as an “intervener” and couldn’t get out of it when reality raised its ugly head.

    It seems that Tam had been putting out really vile propaganda, but in Chinese in some religious publications so few people knew about it during the campaign. Tam ended up being trotted out as the poster boy for animus and ended up helping those opposed to Prop 8 make their case.

    From the newspaper accounts, being on the hot seat – I mean being a witness – was one of the most unpleasant experiences in his life.

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