Michigan Same-sex Marriage Ban To Be Challenged by Adoption Case
photo via Detroit News
An adoption case between 2 women has potentially become a landmark legal battle for same-sex and civil union rights with Michigan’s gay marriage ban being put into question.
Two Detroit nurses, in an attempt to overturn same-sex partner restrictions on adoption, filed a lawsuit on January 21st, 2013. The lesbian couple sued not because they wanted to get married, but because they wanted to both be recognized as parents to their adopted children.
The case then took an unexpected turn. The federal judge hearing their adoption case invited the couple to bring the case to the Supreme Court, which will now test the legality of the state’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriage. Similar to Virginia’s Marshall Newman Amendment, MI’s constitutional amendment stipulates that marriage can only exist between one man and one woman.
The couple in the spotlight, Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, have been together for 13 years and consider themselves, for all practical purposes, to be in union. Rowse says they would like to get married at one of nine states that currently allows same-sex marriage.
But with three adopted children, planning proved a difficult task.
The couple share their home with two boys and a girl; four-year-old Nolan, three-year-old Jacob, and three-year-old Rayne. Jacob came into their home as a foster child to both Rowse and DeBoer sharing legal ownership. When they decided to adopt Nolan, they were faced with the same decision as before, with the two other children. Which of them would become the legal parent?
They chose Rowse as Nolan’s legal mother. And as soon as the decision was made DeBoer actually lost the legal rights she had as a foster parent.
“I lose the right to make medical decisions for my boys, I can’t enroll my boys in school, I am on an emergency card on school… I am not a parent. I am nothing,” she told NPR.
Because of the prohibitive standards of Michigan’s law, Rowse and DeBeor could not adopt each other’s children. More important than marriage, the two share concerns for the children themselves.
If one were to die, the other wouldn’t instantly be the legal guardian of the children they would have to go to court. So the couple sued Michigan in Federal court.
The couple, and lawyers, were stunned when Federal Judge Bernard Friedman invited them to extend their suit to challenge the state’s same-sex ban. So they expanded the lawsuit to invalidate the 2004 ban claiming its inhibition a violation of U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because of the congruent treatment of same-sex versus heterosexual couples.
No matter what Friedman decides, the case could be influenced by the US Supreme Court. The court later this month will be hearing two other unrelated gay marriage arguments one challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, and the other challenging California’s ban on gay marriage.
DeBoer and Rowse’s case is different but has the same vision in scope, all marriage and adoption bans should be less restrictive. Rowse and Deboer will be happy if the ban is lifted, but more than anything they just wish to be parents.
This was the year to fix it… and this was the year it didn’t happen.February 3, 2017
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