The legal process of addressing and holding as unconstitutional same sex marriage bans in the remaining 33 prohibition states continued to unfold in Detroit this week with the commencement of the trial in DeBoer v. Snyder.
April DeBoer and Jayne Rouse, a lesbian couple, adopted three special needs children together, raising them as a family in metro Detroit. But because some adoption judges interpret Michigan’s adoption law as prohibiting same sex couples from co-adopting, the future of this family is uncertain.
The ability to jointly adopt is crucial, since if the legal parent were to become incapacitated or die, the surviving mother is not recognized as a parent of the deceased mother’s children. This could result in the destruction of this family and the removal of the only parent that these children have ever known.
When I met April and Jayne and their children at a litigation fundraiser in January, I was struck by the simplicity and sincerity of this family. These women are two hard-working nurses sharing their lives and raising three young children together as a family.
They don’t come across as activists or leaders of a movement. They each told me that they never expected so much attention from this litigation.
They said that they simply wanted to raise and protect their children just like any other family. “It’s all about our children,” April told me over and over that evening.
Yet, they have found themselves thrust into the forefront of the marriage equality movement in Michigan as their case works its way through the trial process and may end up in the Federal appellate courts and possibly all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the past few months, no fewer than 5 federal courts all over the country have held trials addressing similar challenges to same-sex marriage bans across the country.
In Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Virginia and Texas, 5 out of 5 Federal trial judges have held that the marriage bans violate the US Constitution as set forth in US v. Windsor, last summer's victory over the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The trial is expected to run through the first week of March, with a decision by Judge Friedman expected shortly after the trial. ...what happens if there's a "marriage window?"
I am very excited to watch this case unfold in Michigan, particularly because of the promise that Michigan may soon join the other 17 marriage equality states and Washington DC and treat ALL of its citizens with equality, dignity and respect.
Many of my lesbian and gay friends and clients living in Michigan have chosen to wait until Michigan becomes an equality state before they marry their loved one.
For me and my husband, we simply did not want to wait.
As soon as the Windsor decision was announced on June 26, 2013, we immediately made plans for our marriage. We felt forced to have a “destination wedding” because that was our only choice.
Sure, it would have been easier, more convenient, less expensive and more personal to get married in the city where we live, at a church or location of our own choice, with ALL of our family and friends in attendance. But since Michigan will not allow us to legally marry, we settled upon Washington D.C.
After all, what better location than on the front steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, the very court that gave us the right to marry?
And so we were married there last summer on July 28, a sunny summer morning with two friends as witnesses, in a ceremony that changed our lives forever.
We look forward to the day when Michigan's marriage law is changed so we can renew our marriage vows in our own home town in front of our family and friends.
I have so much admiration and respect for April and Jayne, these two quiet nurses and busy moms from metro Detroit who have had the courage and fortitude to stand up not only for what they believe to be right and best for their family, but to pave the way for untold numbers of Michigan families who will be able to go through the doors that they are opening, for generations to come.
To talk about the sweeping changes we've seen in the last decade and look at some upcoming challenges, we're talking about Marriage Matters . This series of blogs takes a look at history of the fight for LGBT rights in Michigan to an in-depth look at the DeBoer case, which could impact marriage equality in Michigan.
Ric Roane, ACLU of Michigan Member