A non-ACLU lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of two lesbian mothers who were denied the ability to jointly adopt their three special-needs children. The suit alleges that to deny gay parents the right to jointly adopt children violates the equal protection rights of both parents and children. After Judge Bernard Friedman suggested that the case is really about same-sex marriage equality, the plaintiffs amended their complaint to challenge the denial of their right to marry as well.

The ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the plaintiffs, arguing that the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law protects the rights of same-sex couples both to adopt and to marry.

The case went to trial in February 2014, and the ACLU provided assistance to the plaintiffs’ counsel in cross-examining the state’s expert witnesses. In March 2014 Judge Friedman held that Michigan’s ban on same-sex couples marrying was unconstitutional.

On appeal to the Sixth Circuit, however, a conservative panel reversed Judge Friedman’s decision by a vote of 2-1 in November 2014. The Supreme Court took the case and ruled in June 2015 that it is unconstitutional for states to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.

(DeBoer v. Snyder; ACLU of Michigan Attorneys Jay Kaplan and Michael J. Steinberg; National ACLU Attorneys Rose Saxe and Leslie Cooper.)

View our full 2014-2015 Legal Docket.



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