Michigan Wraps Up Its Case Against Equality

The state of Michigan wrapped up its case on Thursday in the suit challenging our ban on same-sex marriage and second-parent adoption and it didn’t go very well for them. One of their witnesses was ruled out by the judge, one got pummeled on the witness stand and the last one got all religious.

Michigan’s gay marriage trial ended on an explosive note today, with the state’s final witness saying he believes unrepentant homosexuals are going to hell.

His views emerged following a question from plaintiffs attorney Ken Mogill, who is fighting to overturn Michigan’s ban on gay marriage.

“Is it accurate that you believe the consequence of engaging in homosexual acts is a separation from God and eternal damnation?” Mogill asked the state’s expert, then added, “in other words, they’re going to hell.”

“Without repentance, yes,” answered the expert, Canadian economist Douglas Allen, the last witness to testify on behalf of the state in a trial that could make Michigan the 18th state to legalize gay marriage.

The state’s entire position on this is that it’s just too risky, that we don’t know enough about whether the children of gay parents won’t be damaged forever. But this argument is totally irrelevant to the legal questions in the case. The plaintiffs already have children and they’re already gay (it’s a lesbian couple with three children, one adopted by one of them and two adopted by the other). Those kids are going to be raised by them no matter what the law says, but they won’t have the kind of legal and financial protections that children in straight families have, protections that the same people who oppose same-sex marriage tell us are vital for their well-being. So why does this magically not apply to children of gay parents?

Let me give the obvious answer: Because that isn’t really their position, it’s the one they are forced to use because they can’t just come out and say “gay people are really icky and immoral and God doesn’t like them.” And that’s what they actually believe. I will be very surprised if the judge doesn’t strike down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage.

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  • Synfandel

    On what, exactly, was Canadian economist Douglas Allen supposed to be an expert?

  • iknklast

    To be quite honest, we don’t know enough about any set of parents to be sure the child won’t be damaged permanently. Heterosexual marriages can be quite hard on children, as we have seen from centuries of abused children. Perhaps we should ban heterosexual marriage until we are sure the children won’t be damaged permanently.

  • Following on to Synfandel’s question, did this Canadian economist offer any economic arguments in this case?

    And why did the state need a Canadian “expert” witness? Are there no such “experts” available in the US? Or have they all been discredited already?

  • eric

    @1 and @3 – Don’t complain, he did wonderfully! Gave the judge all the ammunition he needed to see this as a sectarian religious belief.

  • The state’s entire defense at the trial has been a train wreck in slow motion. Speaking as someone with Michigan connections, It’ll be a fine day when the verdict (and the resulting court statement) arrives.

  • cptdoom

    @1 and @ 3 – It is my understanding that Allen (the Canadian economist) was providing data that backed up Mark Regnerus’ work – he’s the expert that got pummeled on the witness stand, as Ed noted, and the man behind the infamous right-wing funded study timed to come our right before the Supreme Court decisions on DOMA and Prop 8. Allen claimed to have back-up data based on a large Canadian database, but, from what I’ve read, Allen’s work has the same problem that Regnerus’ does – namely, not enough actual children of same-sex parents to form any valid conclusions.

    Interesting, I was following the live-tweeting of Regnerus’ testimony, and it was eerie, because of the feeling of deja vu. A couple of years ago there was a live stream on YouTube of Lance Black’s play “8,” based on the Prop 8 trial transcripts. During that piece, David Blankenhorn, the only expert the pro-Prop 8 side put on (who later has come out for full marriage equality), was decimated by David Bois during cross-examination. Reading the Regnerus’ testimony live tweets was like reading Black’s script – different expert, different trial, same embarrassing result on the witness stand. The best part was when Regnerus had to acknowledge that he did not support limiting the rights of any other types of families – those with divorce, for instance – that also showed poor outcomes in his study.

    It’s even more important in this case that Regnerus failed so miserably in this case, though, because it began as a fight against Michigan’s ban on second-parent adoption, which prevents the women at the center of the case from both being legal parents to their children. It was after the DOMA decision by the SC, I believe, that the judge actually encourage the plaintiffs to challenge the marriage ban as well.

  • jameshanley

    Over the course of these SSM legal challenges in various states, and including Windsor (the DOMA case), the plaintiffs’ counsel have become very adept at challenging and questioning the governments’ witnesses. They know what research methods criticisms to bring out against pseudo-social scientists, as well as how to get the witnesses to reveal their religious motivations.

    Notably, the other side has wholly failed to develop either a defense against types of questions or a counter-strategy of equal strength in challenging the pro-SSM side.

    Given that, it’s not surprising that judges left and right and are overturning SSM bans left and right.

    As a Michigander by residence, who was deeply pained by our vote to constitutionally ban SSM, I’m eagerly anticipating this ruling.

  • jameshanley

    I should add that David Boies and Ted Olson get credit for getting that decimating attack on SSM pseudo-social science off on a good footing. When they took up the Prop 8 case, I was unhappy, because I was about 95% convinced they were jumping the gun, and we needed another 5 years or so before the courts would be ready to be objective on the issue. I’ve rarely been so glad to be wrong.

  • Wylann

    Noted. I’ll have to read these transcripts when they are published.

  • A Hermit

    Douglas Allen was responsible for a piece of shit “study” which purported to show that children of same sex parents were less likely to graduate high school. What he actually showed was that people who are still in high school haven’t graduated yet. (This is what is known in some religious circles as “real” science…)


    trying to remember where I read about this? Some radical subversive blog or other no doubt…

  • vmanis1

    My tax dollars pay for this fellow’s salary. In his Simon Fraser web page, under Research, he writes

    I became interested in economics when I discovered that the principle of substitution could explain much of the traffic patterns I observed on the freeway driving to and from school. I became fascinated in economics when I discovered that economics could explain real puzzles of human behavior. In my research I’ve simply follow these steps: I see behavior that I find puzzling, I try to think up a simple explanation, and then I try to test my idea. By being unconcerned with “efficiency” and passing judgement on the world around me, I’ve managed to find some nuggets ignored by others. On the other hand, my inability to specialize by topic (I’ve written on marriage, divorce, sex, farming, homesteading, the military, the church, dueling, gold mining, legal regulations, etc.) means I’m constantly having to learn institutional details. …

    The breadth of his research interests may not match their depth.

    OTOH, he gets a generally good score at RateMyProfessor.

  • vmanis1

    Oops, forgot the linkie.

  • Michael Heath

    From a solely political perspective, I appreciate the wisdom of not challenging anti-gay marriage bans soon after they were enacted in 2004 and years prior. Andrew Sullivan and Barney Frank have long made good arguments for patience. I happen to respectfully disagree but would also be the first to admit my position to attack asap is not a convincing one either.

    What I don’t understand is why it’s taken years for a federal court to hear these cases and strike them down. Were there no plaintiffs filing cases till now?

    The 14th Amendment is clear and unambiguous, where we’ve also long-known the only motivations for anti-gay laws come solely from a combination of religious beliefs and bigotry, neither of which can be justified as a state interest that would justify unequal protection for gays and their families. We also saw harm come to families as early as when the referendum got on the ballot. That’s because state workers and potential hires had to weigh whether to remain or become employed in the state of MI.

    So was the ‘patience’ political strategy so convincing that all potential plaintiffs held out to recently? I don’t know of any provocative political arguments that have monolithic support, and yet here in MI and other states that appears to have happened here.

  • colnago80

    Re vmanis1 @ #11

    OTOH, he gets a generally good score at RateMyProfessor.

    So did Michael Behe at one time, although his score has deteriorated over time.

  • colnago80

    Re Michael Heath @ #13

    It’s still not a slam dunk before the Supreme Court, depending on whether Kennedy is prepared to go all the way. In any case, it’s probably a 5-4 decision either way.

  • colnago80

    Re vmanis1 @ #11

    Well, my tax dollars support Prof. David Heddle at Christopher Newport University so don’t feel too bad. They also support Pat Michaels at UVA.

  • Donnie

    @16: colnago80 (or your commenter-de-nom today), I cannot speak on behalf of the rest of Dispatches, but I will gladly reimburse you for the .000001 cents of your tax money that goes to Prof. Heddle’s salary if it causes you to ‘SHUT THE FUCK UP’ and stop preemptively calling out people, and pissing all over people.

  • cptdoom

    @13 – Michael Heath – well, there was a case in Texas that took 9 years to finally be heard, so it is likely the conservative states may have been slowing the lawsuits. Also, it took some people getting married in equality states to challenge the laws in states they subsequently moved to, so that process would have taken some time.