On Friday, District Judge Bernard Friedman, a Reagan appointee to the bench, declared Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional (read the opinion here). As I have argued several times during this unprecedented string of marriage equality rulings in the lower federal courts, the decision seems almost routine: a state's ban on gays marrying violates equal protection because it treats similarly situated persons differently for no legitimate reason.
The state tried to argue the standard, yet hopeless case--namely, that the ban promotes the "optimal child-rearing environment," allows the state to "proceed with caution" in an area of great social change, and expresses the collective "tradition and morality" of the citizens of the state.
In response, the court said two things in response: First, that some of these reasons are not even legitimate state goals, and, second, even if they all are, banning gays from marrying is so unrelated to these ostensible goals that the ban makes no sense.
We've heard these arguments before. And we've seen then struck down before, in states as different as Massachusetts (back in 2004) and in Utah ten years later.
What was unique about this decision is that, like Judge Vaughn Walker's decision in August 2010 striking down California's ban on same-sex marriage, it followed a trial, with witness testimony and cross examination. That hasn't happened all that often since we began this fight. And despite the benefits to our cause, i.e., putting truth on the record, it may happen even less often going forward because the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor made trials unnecessary.
Below, I briefly summarize the Michigan case and flesh out the argument that full trials, though a boon for our side, are being made superfluous by Windsor.
CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...