State of Michigan's First Witness in Gay Marriage Ban Trail Barred from Testifying

Mar 3, 2014

The state's defense of Michigan's same-sex marriage ban got off to a rocky start Monday.

Federal Judge Bernard Friedman tossed out the state's first witness in the case. He said Yale law student Sherif Girgis did not qualify as an expert witness. The plaintiffs' attorneys pointed to the fact that Girgis is still a student, and said he would only be expressing his opinion on gay marriage - not actual evidence. 

Supporters of Michigan's gay marriage ban march around the federal court building in Detroit Monday. Some opponents of the ban marched alongside them.
Supporters of Michigan's gay marriage ban march around the federal court building in Detroit Monday. Some opponents of the ban marched alongside them.
Credit Michigan Public Radio Network

"Once he was thoroughly discredited, the court agreed - he wasn't competent and he didn't have any testimony that  he could render to this case that addressed any of the facts of this case or the issues of this case," said Dana Nessel, an attorney for the lesbian couple challenging the state's gay marriage ban.

"I mean, this guy's a student," said Nessel. "He is a philosophy student. How is he qualified to testify on any of the issues pertinent to this case?"

The state also called its star witness in the case. Sociologist Mark Regnerus authored a study saying households run by same-sex couples are less stable than those run by a man and a woman.

He mostly gave an overview of some of the findings of his controversial study. A much-anticipated cross-examination of Regnerus by the plaintiffs' attorneys is expected early Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown said she will start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples if Friedman strikes down the gay marriage ban. That's despite an order from state Attorney General Bill Schuette telling county clerks to hold off.

Brown says she does not report to Schuette.

"Clerks follow the law," Brown told reporters after her testimony. "And if the judge says that the Michigan marriage amendment is unconstitutional, we will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples."

Right now, Brown's office is not able to issue a marriage license to the couple challenging Michigan's ban, who live in Hazel Park.