Roger Weber's blog from inside court

8:59 roger weber: Judge Bernard Friedman has taken the bench.

9:07 roger weber: There's a brief delay because one of the lawyers isn't here. Judge Friedman is filling time with a joke about three penguins in Alaska. Got a good laugh, though the issue about to be argued is very serious.

9:11 roger weber: Ready now. Opening statement for April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse is being given by Carole Stanyar.

9:13 roger weber: The plaintiffs are deeply committed to each other. They are wonderful and caring parents.

9:16 roger weber: Wer'e going to show you through testimony that marriage is central to life in America.

9:19 roger weber: Stanyar says tradition and morality cannot be used as an excuse for disparate impact on a disfavored minority. She says there is no single definition of marriage across history.

9:23 roger weber: Same sex marriages in other states have had no effect on heterosexual marriage. Their behavior is not affected by what gay people are doing.

9:29 roger weber: Stanyar says, "We want this to be the last trial in America in which same sex parents have to defend themselves this way."

9:36 roger weber:
Stanyar is talking about the importance of adoption. She says "same sex couples are more likely to adopt special needs children than are straight couples."

9:38 roger weber: "Children of same sex couples are more tolerant of differences.
You won't see these kids on the playground hurling insults at each other."

9:44 roger weber: DeBoer and Rowse are sitting at the plaintiff's table to Stanyar's left. An overflow room has been set up for spectators.

9:49 roger weber: Stanyar is talking about the history of discimmination against gay and lesbian people. "They have been repeatedly stripped of their fundamental rights by popular votes in 40 states."

9:54 roger weber: Stanyar says the November 2004 Michigan Marriage Amendment "should be viewed in the context of relentless discrimination against gays and lesbians in this country."

10:04 roger weber: Stanyar calls her clients heroes. "Together they took in babies left behind…special needs children……..they nursed them back to health. They loved all of them. They gave them what they needed. All of them are thriving.

10:06 roger weber: Kristin Heyse is now giving an opening statement on behalf of the Michigan Attorney General.

10:09 roger weber: Heyse says, "It's easy to get caught up in the sentiment and emotion. This case is about one thing: the will of the people of the State of Michigan

10:11 roger weber: "The fact is men and women are different. They are not interchangeable."

10:16 roger weber: "This was not a whim of a few but a vote of the majority--the will of the people."

10:18 roger weber: Heyse says research into the impact of same sex parenting on children is too new, and study samples are too small.
"Experts say what's needed is a large, nationally representative long term study, from birth to adulthood. No such study exists."

10:23 roger weber: Michael Pitt is giving an opening statement for Oakland County Clerk.Lisa Brown. She is a defendant in the case, because of her role in issuing marriage licenses, but sides with the plaintiffs. Pitt:
"She is not required to listen to the opinion of the Attorney General or the voters. Those views as expressed in 2004 do not create a constitutional right that she has to follow."

10:39 roger weber: Dr. David M. Brodzinsky is the first witness for the plaintiffs. He is a psychologist specializing in adoption, child development and non-traditional family life.

10:48 roger weber: Many questions about his background, including teaching at Rutgers. This is tedious, but is a routine part of qualifying him as an expert witness.

10:51 roger weber: Court in recess until 11:10.

11:11 roger weber: Court back in session.

11:20 roger weber: Dr. David M. Brodzinsky testifies that the best factors for positive child adjustment include the relationship of the parents, warmth, empathy, sensitivity, plus educational opportunities for the children. He says it makes no difference whether the parents are gay or straight.

11:24 roger weber: He says in heterosexual families, mothers tend to be more emotion focused--more calming and soothing and more physically affectionate. Fathers are more playful and boisterous. They are more task-focused. It's a matter of style, not competence.

11:28 roger weber: Stanyar: Is there any evidence children need male and female parents for positive development?
Brodzinsky: No. It's not the gender of the parent that's the key. It's the quality of the parenting of whoever is there.

11:34 roger weber: Brodzinsky says nearly 150 studies have been done on same sex parenting. He is going through a list of several articles.

11:44 roger weber: "Children of gay and lesbian couples show no discernible difference in outcomes compared to children of heterosexual couples."

11:59 roger weber: Brodzinsky is speaking against an argument by the Attorney General's lawyer that studies are needed showing the impact on same sex parenting on children all the way to adulthood. He says problems would surface much earlier in life. "There's no reason to expect we would suddenly see problems emerging in the late twenties and early thirties. It doesn't make any sense."

12:03 roger weber: He says here is a consensus among the all the major professional organizations that childen of same sex couples do well.

12:13 roger weber:
He's talking now about adoption in general. He says children adopted as babies do much better than older children who were adopted after spending time in the foster care system.

12:23 roger weber: He says children conceived through donor insemination do as well as children conceived by their biological parents. "Biology itself is less important than the parenting qualities."

12:31 roger weber: Brodzinsky is already refuting one of the studies that is being used by the Attorney General's Office. This eight-day hearing is shaping up as a battle of the experts. Judge Friedman has to decide whether children raised by same-sex couples do worse than those raised by straight parents.

12:42 roger weber: Stanyar: Does it matter to children if there is as a legally recognized relationship?

Brodzinsky: Yes. It brings social capital—legitimacy-- to the relationship. This is a real family. We are no different than anyone else.

12:45 roger weber: He says if children of gay and lesbian couples fare more poorly--and he rejects that argument-- it would be "all the more reason to stabilize these families through marriage."

12:54 roger weber: Brodzinsky says 3500 children in Michigan's foster care system in Michigan are waiting for adoption. "They linger. Too often they move from home to home." He believes making gay and lesbian adoption easier would give these children better outcomes.

1:00 roger weber: He believes a ban on gay marriage discourages these couples from adopting. "I can't think of anything more disrespectful than a couple being told 'you can adopt, but you (the partner) can't. You have a guaranteed relationship with the child, but we're not sure about you (the partner).' " DeBoer is the adoptive parent of a girl. Rowse is the adoptive parent of two boys.

1:00 roger weber: Court in recess until two o'clock

2:11 roger weber: Court back in session

2:14 roger weber: Attorney Joseph Potchen is cross examining David Brodzinsky, who is an expert witness testifying for DeBoer and Rowse. Potchen represents the Attorney General's Office.

2:17 roger weber: Potchen:They (DeBoer and Rowse) didn't refuse to adopt the children because they couldn't get married.
Brodzinsky: Correct.

2:20 roger weber: Potchen: You would agree they are in a stable, loving relationship though they are not married?
Brodzinsky: I would assume so.

2:25 roger weber:
Potchen: Should two sisters be able to adopt?
Brodzinsky: I hadn't thought of that. It's a ridiculous question, frankly.

2:33 roger weber:
Potchen is trying to poke holes in some of the studies Brodzinsky cites as showing that children raised by same sex couples do as well as children raised by heterosexual couples.

2:42 roger weber: Stanyar is beginning redirect.

2:57 roger weber: Second witness is Michael Rosenfeld, Associate Professor of Sociology at Stanford.

3:16 roger weber: Rosenfeld was asked whether there is any debate in sociological circles that children of same sex parents do just as well as children of traditional couples.
"I don't believe so….This debate has been settled."

3:26 roger weber: Like the first witness, he believes there is no difference in the outcomes of children with either same-sex or traditional parents.
Court in recess for 12 minutes

4:21 roger weber: This part of the testimony would challenge a Sociology major. Rosenfeld is disputing a study by another researcher who supports the Attorney General's side. Rosenfeld says the researcher "exaggerated the uncertainty (of the outcomes of children raised by same-sex parents) by at least fifty times."

4:40 roger weber: Rosenfeld is disputing another study --this one in Canada--alleging that kids of same sex couples face more challenges than those of traditional couples."All of the negative outcomes that he ascribed to gay and lesbian parents are predicted by family transitions ."
In other words, he believes family instability is a much more important factor than the gender of the parents.