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Michigan pays $1.9 million to lawyers who won gay marriage case at US Supreme Court


DETROIT — The state of Michigan agreed to pay $1.9 million to the lawyers who won the landmark gay marriage case at the U.S. Supreme Court, an attorney said Wednesday.

Under federal law, there's no dispute that taxpayers were on the hook for legal fees for years of litigation. Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer challenged Michigan's ban on gay marriage and restrictions on joint adoption.

Attorney General Bill Schuette vigorously defended the 2004 voter-approved gay marriage ban, which was struck down as unconstitutional.

Carole Stanyar, one of the four main lawyers for the Hazel Park nurses, said the state was making the last payment this week on $1.9 million in legal costs and fees submitted by the team. A judge was told that no hearing would be necessary.

The state paid "basically the amount that we requested," Stanyar said.

An email seeking comment from Schuette spokeswoman Andrea Bitely was not immediately returned.

"The fee (law) was enacted to empower and encourage the vindication of civil rights," Stanyar said. "I do feel empowered and very encouraged so I guess the law is working as Congress intended. If our case motivates young lawyers to stand up for people and do the right thing, that would be great."

The litigation started in federal court in Detroit and lasted more than three years. Stanyar even sold her home in Plymouth to bring in money to keep the case afloat. She had lived there nearly 25 years.

"We didn't have a choice. ... Once you're in it, you can't lose it. You just do whatever it takes," Stanyar said.

Taxpayers also paid $96,000 to John Bursch, a lawyer hired by Schuette to defend the gay marriage ban. Conservative economists and social scientists hired by the state for the 2014 trial were paid $148,000.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said he didn't give them "any significant weight" and found their opinions about children raised by same-sex couples to be on the "fringe."

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