From left, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse enter the Detroit federal courthouse Tuesday to challenge same-sex adoption and gay marriage bans in Michigan. They sued to be allowed to adopt each other's children and to overturn the 2004 voter-approved ban against marriage. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
Detroit — An expert in gay and lesbian demographics testified Thursday that 8.3 million people in the United States identify themselves as LGBT, which is lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender, including 287,000 Michigan residents whose numbers are growing, particularly among individuals under 30 years-old.
Gays and lesbians couples are also gaining more acceptance in American society, said UCLA Professor Gary Gates testifying during the fourth day of a trial in U.S. District Court in Detroit in which the plaintiffs are seeking to overturn Michigan’s bans on same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption.
Gates cited surveys which found 43 percent of Americans “see nothing wrong” with same-sex relationships compared to 13 percent in 1990.
“There is a greater acceptance,” said Gates, the author of the “The Gay and Lesbian Atlas.” “But the majority of Americans still ‘see something wrong’ (with same-sex couples). There is not complete acceptance by any means.”
Gates said gay and lesbian couples want to get married for the same reasons other couples want to: love, companionship and commitment. He said same-sex couples also seek legalized marriages so that they have the same legal protections and other benefits, such as healthcare and tax benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples.
Gates was the only witness Thursday. Yale University history professor George Chauncey was expected to testify but had to cancel. His written testimony, however, will be reviewed by U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, who will decide the case.
Lawyers for the State of Michigan, which opposes lifting both the state’s same-sex adoption and gay marriage bans, will begin presenting their witnesses on Monday.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Hazel Park residents April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, are suing the state to get joint custody of their three special-needs children. They also are challenging the constitutionality of the Michigan Marriage Protection Amendment, approved by voters in 2004, which bans same sex marriage.
Seventeen states have legalized gay marriage. The state of Texas on Wednesday declared that state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional but left it in place pending an appeal.