Lesbian couple with children battling Michigan’s adoption laws, now also first to challenge state’s 2004 marriage amendmentTop Highlights, Breaking News Sunday, September 9th, 2012
Suburban Detroit lesbian moms, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse,announced their challenge in federal court to Michigan’s constitutional ban of same-sex marriage, according to the Detroit Metropolitan News, with their three children present at a news conference. The move comes as what the couple have come to see as a necessary step in their struggle to achieve what was and perhaps remains their primary goal: changing the law that bars same-sex couples from adopting children already adopted by one parent who is unmarried. Ergo, in Michigan, you can’t get married to your partner of the same sex who already has kids, which means you also cannot adopt your partner’s children; and vice-versa.
The couple allege that officials from the highest levels of government in Michigan, namely Gov. Rick Snyder and the state’s attorney general, Bill Schuette; to the Bill Bullard, who is the Oakland County clerk and the issuer of marriage licenses for residents of the town of Hazel Park, where the couple lives with their children; have discriminated against them by denying them basic rights that other Michigan couples enjoy, the only difference being that those couple are in heterosexual relationships.
The Detroit Metropolitan News reports that ” a tearful DeBoer told reporters Friday she and Rowse made the difficult decision with their children in mind.
“Lots of things could happen if we don’t protect their rights,” DeBoer said. “For Jayne and I, this fight is and always will be about the rights and protections of our children. It has never been about our rights.”
DeBoer and Rowse are nurses. DeBoer adopted Ryanne, 2, and Rowse adopted Nolan, 3, and Jacob, 2.
DeBoer and Rowse decided to amend their suit last week after U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman called the marriage amendment the “underlying issue” during a motion hearing in which the state sought to have the second-parent adoption case tossed out.
“We understand the weight of this monumental task,” said Dana Nessel, an attorney for the women. “Some may say we are rushing in too soon, but really, we are many years too late. We are mindful of setting a national precedent.”
Benefits, protections sought
DeBoer and Rowse argue the state’s marriage amendment violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
The law, they say, excludes them from benefits and protections such as “support for family finances, and other public and private safety nets.”
Further, they say it’s unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to be married and that children of such couples should be allowed all of the protections and benefits — such as health care coverage — of heterosexual couples.
The women are asking the federal judge to stop Schuette and Snyder from “attempting to block same-sex couples’, including the adult plaintiffs’, attempts at securing a marriage license in any county of Michigan.”
Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Snyder, said Friday the proper venue to challenge the marriage statute may be through the constitutional amendment process.
“The Michigan marriage amendment was a vote of the people adopted eight years ago,” she said.
Kary L. Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, said in a statement that the group agrees with the challenge to the marriage amendment, which, the ACLU contends, violates the U.S. Constitution and harms families.
“But the most important thing in this case is to ensure that this couple can take care of their family, and the best way to do that is for the judge to resolve their second-parent adoption claim,” Moss said.
Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the LGBT Project of ACLU of Michigan, added: “Every child should be afforded the legal protection of two parents regardless of sexual orientation.”
Kaplan said 40 states have laws or constitutional amendments that deny gay couples the right to marry.
Michigan’s marriage amendment, though, is one of the “broadest prohibitions in the country,” he said.
“It pretty much takes everything off the table,” Kaplan said, noting the constitutional amendment not only bars gay couples from marrying, it outlaws civil unions and domestic partner benefit programs, including health insurance.
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