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Judge Rules Michigan's Ban on Gay Marriage Unconstitutional

Friday's ruling is the fifth such court decision in the past few months, following similar outcomes in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Texas.
Image: Protesters Demonstrate Outside Detroit Debating State's Gay Marriage Case
Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, shown here outside court earlier month, convinced a federal judge to overturn Michigan's ban on gay marriage and gay adoption.Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Friday that Michigan's law against same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

The ruling is a victory for two Detroit-area nurses, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, who went to court to challenge a state law that barred them from jointly adopting each other's children.

"It's awesome," Rowse said.

At the invitation of the judge, they broadened their lawsuit to challenge the state's ban on same-sex marriage, adopted by 59 percent of Michigan voters a decade ago.

Judge Bernard Friedman said the state, in defending the ban as the will of the people, "lost sight of what this case is truly about: people. No court record of this proceeding could ever fully convey the personal sacrifice of these two plaintiffs who seek to ensure that the state may no longer impair the rights of their children and the thousands of others now being raised by same-sex couples."

Friday's decision, he said, "affirms the enduring principle that regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail."

"All we can do is cross our fingers. But we're ecstatic."

The judge did not put a hold on his own ruling, parting company with other federal judges who have stayed the effect of similar rulings while the cases work their way through the appeals court.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette quickly requested an emergency stay.

“In 2004 the citizens of Michigan recognized that diversity in parenting is best for kids and families because moms and dads are not interchangeable," Schuette said in a statement.

"Michigan voters enshrined that decision in our State constitution, and their will should stand and be respected. I will continue to carry out my duty to protect and defend the Constitution."

It was unclear if any couples would succeed in tying the knot before a possible stay is issued. A handful gathered outside clerks' offices to wait Friday afternoon, but Friedman's ruling didn't come before the close of business.

Tobey Haughey and her partner of 26 years Lynette Rich said they planned to be at the clerk's office first-thing Monday in the hopes that they could get married before the appeals court acted.

"We're scrambling," Haughey said.

"All we can do is cross our fingers," said Rich. "But we're ecstatic."

Friday's ruling is the fifth such court decision in the past few months, following similar outcomes in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Texas. And it's the seventh such court decision, along with similar ones in New Mexico and New Jersey, to follow the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in June that struck down a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

NBC News' Tracy Connor contributed to this report.