AG: Same-sex marriage case merits 15-judge panel

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has said repeatedly that it is his job to defend the state Constitution in regards to same-sex marriage. To do that, he said late last week, he plans to ask all 15 judges of the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the state’s case.

That would be unusual — typically, three judges make a decision. But Schuette says this issue is important enough to merit the involvement of all of the judges.

A 2004 ballot proposal passed by Michigan voters defined marriage as between a man and a woman, in effect banning same-sex marriage in the state’s Constitution. Last month, a federal judge in Detroit tossed that ban out, saying it was unconstitutional.

He is potentially asking the court to make a definitive decision about same-sex marriage of not only Michigan, but also Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky. All four states currently have appeals before the Sixth Circuit Court about the issue. Schuette said having a hearing with all the appeals judges at once will take less time than four separate hearings, which — depending on the outcomes — may lead to a 15 judge panel, anyway.

The attorney general also said a full-panel appeal would prevent any disagreement on the same issue between different judges and the state’s different cases.

Schuette said the issue of same-sex marriage is similar to a 2012 case about affirmative action in Michigan. In that case, a three-judge panel made a decision before all 15 judges weighed in.

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