Local faith leaders: Children at heart of marriage trial

Prayer sought as case challenging Michigan’s constitutional amendment wraps up

Dozens of protesters hold signs while marching to supporting Michigan’s marriage amendment Feb. 25 in front of the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse in downtown Detroit.

Dozens of protesters hold signs while marching to supporting Michigan’s marriage amendment Feb. 25 in front of the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse in downtown Detroit.

Detroit — The Feb. 25 opening of the ongoing DeBoer v. Snyder trial, in which the plaintiffs are seeking to legalize same-sex marriage by overturning the Michigan Marriage Amendment defining civil marriage as between one man and one woman in this state, is just the beginning of what’s anticipated to be a long process, say Catholic officials.

“If Judge (Bernard) Friedman finds the state marriage amendment unconstitutional we anticipate an appeal from the state attorney general to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati,” said David Maluchnik, director of communications with the Michigan Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice for the Catholic Church in Michigan.

As the federal trial opened Feb. 25 in U.S. district court in downtown Detroit, about 60 protesters — most in support of traditional marriage — marched and held signs in the bitter cold. Inside, plaintiffs and defendants traded arguments and expert witnesses as Friedman prepares to make a decision.

It was at Friedman’s suggestion that the case was expanded from the original lawsuit brought by Hazel Park residents April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse to include a challenge to Michigan’s marriage amendment after Rowse and DeBoer originally sought to challenge Michigan’s law prohibiting joint adoption of children by same-sex couples.

Maluchnik expressed hope that if Friedman does overturn the amendment, he might “issue an immediate stay while the case is being appealed.”

“We believe Michigan voters spoke overwhelmingly in support of traditional marriage in 2004 by passing Proposal 2,” said Maluchnik, “and it is very encouraging that the state’s attorneys have stated they will defend the will of the voters as far as possible.”

The marriage amendment is being defended in court by state Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office.

As of The Michigan Catholic’s press time March 4, no decision had been issued in the case, which was expected to last until March 6. An updated story will be available at www.themichigancatholic.com when a decision is released.

The Michigan Catholic Conference filed an amicus brief last year supporting the state’s case defending the marriage amendment, which was being argued in U.S. district court in late February and early March.

The Michigan Catholic Conference filed an amicus brief last year supporting the state’s case defending the marriage amendment, which was being argued in U.S. district court in late February and early March.

Maluchnik added that future ballot actions could also have a bearing on the issue, depending on how the courts proceed.”

Additionally, “prayer is very important, as is a positive witness to the beauty of marriage,” said Maluchnik.

“It would be very helpful for Catholics and all Christians to speak to the truth of marriage,” he said, “to articulate it in a kind and loving manner, and to help defend it from rather aggressive efforts that are seeking to redefine the very nature of the institution of marriage.”

The Michigan Catholic Conference had featured a Feb. 24 op-ed in the Detroit Free Press, as policy advocate Rebecca Mastee argued that more emphasis should be placed on the welfare of children when debating the definition of marriage.

Mastee cited statistics that more than half the births to women younger than 30 are now outside of marriage, while numerous children are living in poverty because of fatherlessness in the home.

Therefore, she said, the 2004 Michigan Marriage Amendment was passed not to be prejudiced against its opponents, but to support healthier families and children.

“Did voters have a rational reason for preserving marriage between a man and a woman in the state constitution in order ‘to secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children,’ as the Michigan Constitution now reads?” she wrote, “Or was the vote an act of bigotry against same-sex couples, as some federal courts have found and those who purport to promote tolerance claim?”

Mastee said that by disconnecting marriage from the interests of children, “it will make laws related to marriage essentially a vehicle to serve adult interests.”

“How can young people be taught the importance of a child’s father and mother being united in marriage without appearing discriminatory, when the law sanctions marriage as a vehicle for creating motherless or fatherless families, as in the case of same-sex couples?” she asked.

As the trial gets under way Feb. 25, people hold signs and march in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Detroit.

As the trial gets under way Feb. 25, people hold signs and march in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Detroit.

Catholics have not been the only voices speaking against the legalization of same-sex marriage. During a Feb. 24 news conference at First Baptist World Changers Church in Detroit, about 100 pastors from various denominations spoke out about the importance of traditional marriage for society.

The Rev. Lennell D. Caldwell, pastor of First Baptist World Changers Church, said 2.5 million people went to the polls in 2004 to ratify what God had already said about marriage.

“These people said very clearly that here in the great state of Michigan, marriage is defined as one man and one woman,” said Rev. Caldwell, asking Michigan judges and politicians to allow “the next generation of children the freedom to be born into this world with a fair opportunity in their reasoning to know the truth about marriage and family.”

“Even if a child is born in a single-family home, the fact still remains the same: it took one man and one woman to define the constitution of marriage and family,” said Rev. Caldwell.

The Rev. Stacy Swimp, local political commentator and founder of Contagious Transformation ministry, was a fellow pastor present at the Feb. 24 news conference.

He explained at the conference that laws that seek to overturn God’s law regarding marriage, or that attempt to teach families that “something that the Bible calls sin is not only good but good for them, are unjust laws.”

“We intend to fulfill our Christian responsibility to oppose unjust laws as well as the politicians and the judges who promote laws which seek to give license to what the Bible calls sin,” he added, explaining that the issue of marriage protection is not an issue of conservatism, liberalism, libertarianism, Democratic or Republican platforms, but an issue of following God’s natural law for mankind.

In a later interview with The Michigan Catholic, Rev. Swimp expressed the challenge to pastors not to be passive on supporting traditional marriage, as “there are pastors who unfortunately are on the wrong side of this issue.”

“We need to promote biblical and moral literacy,” he said, explaining that a loss of biblical principles has been the “core of collapse of our society.”

He explained that besides high rates of infant mortality and single parenthood afflicting the black community, another high statistic is that of HIV diagnoses. He said those suffering with HIV need support both physically and spiritually, and that legalizing same-sex marriage will not fix this problem.

“I think this is going to be devastating for the black community” especially, he said.