March 7, 2013 - Arguments were heard today in a challenge to Michigan's Constitutional Amendment barring same-sex couple from marrying.
Judge Bernard Friedman of the Eastern District of Michigan said the arguments of the plaintiffs were "compelling," however, he first wishes to review U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the upcoming cases involving the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the California case involving Proposition 8. In both those matters, the plaintiffs were successful in challenging laws which discriminated against gays and lesbians.
Accordingly, Judge Friedman took the motions under advisement, and issued a formal stay of proceedings. He indicated a written opinion would be issued shortly after the Supreme Court opinions are received. Those arguments will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court later this month, and a decisions are expected in June.
Southeastern Michigan residents April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are challenging Michigan's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, as well as its adoption code that prohibits them from adopting their children together.
"While we are disappointed that an immediate decision was not made, we are hopeful that it will only be a matter of time until the law recognizes that we are as much a family as any other," said DeBoer. "We will never stop fighting for our family or for our children."
The couple, who has been in a committed relationship for over a decade, has three special-needs children. DeBoer, a neo-natal intensive care nurse, and Rowse, an emergency room nurse, became licensed as a couple to be foster parents. Within a year and a half, they welcomed three newborns who had been abandoned or surrendered at birth. The children faced long-term physical and mental impairments due to prematurity, little or no prenatal care, maternal drug use, and other complications.
DeBoer and Rowse's desire to jointly adopt all three children would establish each parent's legal claim and relationship to their children. Currently one has adopted two of the children and the other has adopted one. April and Jayne asserted that the Michigan Adoption Code, which prohibits joint adoption for their kids and thousands of other children in households like theirs across the state, violates their right to Equal Protection under the United States Constitution.
Attorneys Dana Nessel (Nessel & Kessel Law) and Carole Stanyar (The Law Offices of Carole Stanyar) filed a complaint on behalf of April, Jayne, and their children against the State of Michigan in January of 2012, however, at the behest of Judge Bernard Friedman, the pleadings were amended to challenge the same-sex marriage ban, significantly expanding the scope of the case.
Michigan's Marriage Amendment, approved by voters in 2004, prohibits gays and lesbians from a legal marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships.
"While we understand his reasoning, we are nonetheless disappointed that Judge Friedman did not take this opportunity to strike down Michigan's draconian prohibition on same-sex marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships," said Nessel. "We believe this issue is ripe for an immediate decision. The citizens of our state are hurting each and every day as a result of these abominable laws. A declaration that equal rights apply to everyone can never be made too quickly or come too soon."
"The children of gays and lesbians in Michigan are forbidden from having two parents," said attorney Carole Stanyar. "Michigan is one of only a handful of states left in the country that allows no mechanism for the legal recognition of two parents of the same sex, meaning that whether same-sex couples adopt or one of the partners conceives a child biologically, only one partner can ever have a legally recognized relationship with that child."