Michigan's witness in gay marriage trial barred

Associated Press
Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer walk outside Federal Courthouse before a trial that could overturn Michigan's ban on gay marriage in Detroit on Monday, March 3, 2014 in Detroit. Lisa Brown of Oakland County, the elected clerk of a Detroit-area county says she'll follow the orders of a judge when it comes to same-sex marriage, not Michigan's attorney general. Brown was asked about an email last fall from the attorney general's office, which warned county clerks not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even if a judge threw out the ban. Michigan voters banned gay marriage in 2004. In a lawsuit, Detroit-area nurses April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse say that violates the U.S. Constitution. (AP Photo/Detroit News, David Coates) DETROIT FREE PRESS OUT; HUFFINGTON POST OUT
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Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer walk outside Federal Courthouse before a trial that could overturn Michigan's …

DETROIT (AP) — A judge barred an Ivy League law student Monday from testifying at Michigan's gay marriage trial, saying he might become an expert witness someday but his opinions wouldn't help sway this case.

It was a blow for the Michigan attorney general's office, which had offered Sherif Girgis as its first witness in defense of a 2004 constitutional amendment that bars same-sex marriage.

Girgis has written and talked about a historical defense of marriage between a man and a woman going back to ancient philosophers such as Cicero and Plato. He's pursuing a law degree at Yale University and a doctorate in philosophy in Princeton University.

"The fact is you're still a student. Someone else is still grading your papers," said attorney Ken Mogill, co-counsel for two Detroit-area nurses challenging the gay-marriage ban.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said Girgis is smart, articulate and bound to become an expert in his field.

"But not quite yet," Friedman said.

The trial entered its second week Monday. Earlier in the day, Lisa Brown, a Democrat and the elected clerk of Oakland County, was asked about an email sent last October from the attorney general's office during a hearing in the case.

Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, had warned counties not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even if the judge threw out the ban at that time. The state said other legal moves would be in the works.

Friedman, however, took no action and instead ordered a trial, which began Feb. 25.

"My job is to follow what the judge says, not what the attorney general says," said Brown, who supports gay marriage.

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