HAZEL PARK, MICHIGAN, UNITED STATES (MARCH 21, 2014) (NBC) - A U.S. federal judge struck down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage on Friday (March 21) as a violation of equal protection rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution in the latest in a series of court rulings across the nation to allow gay couples to wed.
The ban, voted into law in 2004 as a state constitutional amendment, "does not advance any conceivable legitimate state interest" and discriminates against same-sex couples, Judge Bernard Friedman found in a 31-page ruling.
The challenge to Michigan's law was brought by a lesbian couple who live in the Detroitsuburb of Hazel Park and had sought to jointly adopt each other's children but were denied that right under Michigan law.
DeBoer and Rowse celebrated with their attorney Dana Nessel when they received notice of the ruling.
"I'm overwhelmed. We're going to actually be a legalized family," said Rowse.
"This is what we've wanted for our family and families like ours and we are just so happy and proud that Michigan is now on the right side of history," said DeBoer.
DeBoer later told a news conference that she and Rowse would not marry right away because of the possibility the decision could be overturned.
Friday's ruling followed a nine-day trial and was in line with similar recent rulings by a series of federal judges who have found bans on gay marriage unconstitutional inTexas, Utah and other states. Those rulings have been put on hold pending appeals.
Lawyers seeking a stay of the ruling on behalf of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Schuette said one was needed to avoid confusion and maintain the status quo while appellate courts decide how Michigan and other states may define marriage.
Barely a decade ago no U.S. states permitted gays to marry. Support has surged sinceMassachusetts became the first state to make same-sex marriage legal, and 17 states plus the District of Columbia now allow same-sex nuptials. That number would be substantially increased if a series of recent court decisions are upheld.
Momentum has grown since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that legally married same-sex couples are eligible for federal benefits in a decision that struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.