ASK THE LAWYER By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.

daniel best picQUESTION:  Can you briefly and simply explain how one federal judge overturned the will of millions of Michigan voters like Judge Friedman did in the same-sex marriage case decided on March 21, 2014, where he held that the Michigan Marriage Amendment (the “MMA”), was unconstitutional?


ANSWER: It’s complicated but we will try. Courts protect individual rights. The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution gives all citizens the right to equal protection under the law. One purpose of the Constitution and its Amendments is to remove certain subjects from political controversy, to place individual rights outside of the reach of majorities or officials and to establish individual rights as legal principles to be applied by the courts. An individual’s right to life, liberty, property, to freedom of speech and press, freedom of religion and association, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote unless related to a rational governmental purpose, applied equally to all. All similarly situated people must be treated equally. Marriage has long been held to be included among our fundamental rights.

The narrow issue before the court was whether the limit of the right to marry to opposite sex couples was rationally related to any conceivable legitimate governmental purpose. The MMA denied the fundamental individual right of marriage to same-sex couples because of their gender. The State of Michigan failed to prove that limiting marriage to opposite sex couples was rationally related to a legitimate governmental purpose.

Judge Friedman held the MMA failed to meet the equal protection requirements of the United States Constitution. As a result, the MMA was held to be unconstitutional and unenforceable. Individual rights prevailed.

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ASK THE LAWYER By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq. Attorney and Counselor at Law

GWINN TAURIAINEN PLLC 901 Wilshire Drive, Suite 550 Troy, MI 48084 (248) 247-3300 (248) 247-3310 facsimile [email protected]