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Detroit — U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman cried Friday morning when he learned that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld his decision overturning Michigan's gay-marriage ban.

In an exclusive and rare interview, Friedman broke his silence on the landmark case and reflected on the high court ruling that made gay marriage the law of the land.

"I am so excited. Very excited," Friedman told The Detroit News. "I was praying for this. We live in America and equal protection is equal protection. I couldn't see our country going any other way."

Friedman was sitting in his car in Metro Detroit when a colleague, U.S. District Judge Judith Levy, called with the news at 10:02 a.m. Levy is the first openly gay judge in the 6th U.S. Circuit.

"She and I cried together," Friedman said.

Levy, a former law clerk to Friedman, said she got emotional when she called Friedman about the ruling.

"It was just such a tremendous honor to call him," she told The News.

Levy said she thought the ruling had been inspired in large part by a concern for children and families. She said it was important to remember the efforts of countless people to bring about change over many decades.

"I think this ruling is the result of the hard work and personal sacrifice of so many people," she said, noting that many LGBT people have committed suicide and others have lived "in fear and been ostracized for so long. Today's decision is the result of persistence and determination in the face of tremendous personal costs and adversity."

Levy, one of just a half-dozen or so openly gay federal judges out of nearly 900 and the first in Michigan, is a married mother of twins. She said the ruling "provides a measure of equality and protection for me and my family that I am tremendously relieved to have, and that I never permitted myself to believe would be possible.

"I appreciate the enormous work that went into achieving this victory and I look forward to a day when all people can be themselves and live their lives without fear or worry about violence, discrimination, or rejection."

The Supreme Court decision comes more than one year after Friedman ruled the state's gay-marriage ban was unconstitutional. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals later upheld the ban.

Friedman, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, said he did not feel vindicated by Friday's decision.

"I think it's vindication for our system of democracy and our Constitution," he said. "I always said that equal protection is not ambiguous.

"The case, to me, was so simple," Friedman added. "Our forefathers meant everyone would have equal protection. This upholds the concept that we are all entitled to be who we are and have the protection of our Constitution and laws and to enjoy life. No matter what."

Friedman said he would celebrate the legal landmark later Friday with friends and family.

"I want to invite as many people as I can," Friedman said. "I said to my wife: 'We have to have someone drive us home tonight. We are definitely celebrating. I want to celebrate because our country's done the right thing.'"

rsnell@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2028

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