The State of Michigan says Nolan, Ryanne and Jacob are entitled to only one legal parent. Today, equality for the children of same-sex families is On Our Radar.
You may remember crying over my On Our Radar column for Mothers Day, when I introduced you to a pair of superhero nurses I discovered living right here in Michigan. As any follower of superheroes knows, their lives are always chronicled in a series of adventures. Sometimes the story is about saving lives, like the episode when Michigan Social Services asked NICU nurse April DeBoer to bring tiny baby Jacob home to comfort him while he died. That chapter had a very happy ending, when April and her superhero partner Jayne Rowse nursed him back to health. Sometimes the adventure is rescuing helpless children, like the time April and Jayne rescued Ryanne, the unwanted third child of a drug-addicted 19-year-old. And sometimes, like today, we find the superheroes fighting with every last ounce of courage they can muster, for truth, justice and the right of children everywhere to be treated equally under the law, no matter who their parents are.
Our superheroes, Jayne and April, are the parents of three preschoolers. (And at the moment, two small foster children too, but that’s another adventure.) Their children’s well-being is being endangered by the all-powerful “State of Michigan,” for no other reason than the parents who rescued them, saved one of them from a lonely death, and gave all three of them the love and security of family, are both women.
Because the State of Michigan has declared two parents of the same sex cannot both adopt, Jayne and April have been forced to “divvy up” their babies. Jayne adopted newborn Nolan. April adopted newborn Ryanne. And then Jayne adopted miracle baby Jacob, since April’s adoption of Ryanne was not yet final when the little angel came into their lives. According to the “State of Michigan,” April, who gave Jacob back his life when that same “State of Michigan” gave up on him, has no legal claim to her sons. Likewise, Jayne, who walked the floor endless days and nights comforting baby Ryanne as she suffered through withdrawal from the drugs her birth mother used, has no legal claim to her daughter.
So, faithful to the tried-and-true superhero format, today we look in on a new adventure of supermoms April and Jayne, and the valiant legal champions of their cause, attornies Dana Nessel and Carole Stanyar, whom I suspect of being a members of the Superhero Justice League themselves. They will be facing off against the State of Michigan in federal court this month, four lone women armed with conviction and determination, with the deep pockets and the legal army of the state arrayed against them.
If you live in Michigan, I hope you will add your support by attending the court hearing August 29th, and by having a drink and a burger at the fund-raiser being held this Thursday, August 16, at Woody’s a local restaurant that has stepped up to help. There is a fundraising page if you can aid in that way. But since I couldn’t explain the dire situation the supermoms find themselves in any better than Attorney Nessel did in her statement to me, I will let her words speak for themselves:
< Judge Bernard Friedman of the United States District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan will be hearing the State of Michigan’s Motion to Dismiss on August 29th at 2:00 p.m. in the Federal Courthouse in downtown Detroit. The State is being represented by the Attorney General’s office, and Attorney General Schuette is also a Defendant in the case. (We are suing the governor and attorney general, as the representative state actors in the case who are defending the law (which is the Michigan Adoption Code) which we are challenging as unconstitutional as it it written. Our claim is that it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment by prohibiting same-sex couples like April and Jayne, who cannot legally marry, from jointly adopting. The State will be arguing that Michigan has a legitimate interest in regulating adoption law, and that the law, as written is a “rational means of protecting family stability and the traditional family unit.” (Whatever that means). There are no witnesses presented and no testimony taken for this type of motion hearing. It is not a fact-based, but a legal-based argument that each side will be making. If ,we prevail, and the motion is defeated, the case will continue and we will begin depositions and discovery for the next phase of the case (which involves our Motion for Summary Judgment, which, if granted, means we win). If the judge grants the State’s Motion to Dismiss, it will either mean that the case is tossed out, or the judge could order us to re-file the case in state court, and go up through the state court appellate process before the federal court will hear it.
The fundraiser is being held at Woody’s in Royal Oak (208 W. 5thAve, Royal Oak, 48067) on Thursday, August 16th, from 5pm to 10pm. My intern asked the restaurant if we could hold it there. The admission price is $10. We have two bands playing and MSU star TJ Duckett will be in attendance. Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney Kym Worthy (who adopted 3 foster care children herself) is a big supporter and will be in attendance. We attempted to get businesses in the local Royal Oak and Ferndale areas to contribute, but, despite our efforts, could not get a single business to contribute a dime. Woody’s is giving us back 10% of the food and beverage tab (which sounds generous, but will actually be a huge profit to them if we get enough people to attend). We also were turned down by every one of the state’s LGBT organizations (including the ones that specifically deal with same-sex adoption) who have all indicated they don’t assist in “private lawsuits,” even ones that can potentially change the law for anyone similarly situated. This is extremely problematic because a case like this will ultimately involve many expert witnesses from around the country, deposition fees, transcript fees, travel costs, etc., and, honestly, at this point we have no idea where this money will come from. We tried soliciting for assistance before ever filing the suit, but made no progress. We decided to go ahead with the case anyway, since there were so many families in the state suffering as a result of this barbaric, outdated statutory scheme, hoping that after the case received some publicity people and organizations would want to get involved, but, at this point, we’ve had virtually no success. It’s actually very disillusioning, as Michigan is one of only 5 state’s left in the country that offers not a single type of protection for gay and lesbian families like April and Jayne’s, but no one is actually willing to do anything about it. >>
Every superhero story has a crunch-time, and it’s come for April and Jayne. If you can be at the fundraiser or at the hearing to support them, please go! I will update the rest of you on the hearing as soon as the judge rules. But before I go, I would like to stress again that this fight isn’t about the rights of Jayne and April. It is about the rights of their kids. No child who could have all the legal protections and advantages of a two-parent family – like insurance rights, and inheritance rights and the right to remain with the surviving parent if the adopting parent dies – should be denied that security by the government.
The “State of Michigan” trusts April and Jayne to adopt separately. They trust them to foster at-risk children. What possible reason does the state have to keep them from adopting the children already living in their household except to punish the women for being gay? Here’s hoping Judge Friedman will see that too. We hope he will find little Nolan, and little Ryanne and little Jacob have a right to the same legal protections enjoyed by any other child lucky enough to have two loving parents.
Today the right of all families to be equal under the law is On Our Radar.
The Deboer Rowse Adoption Fund is on Facebook. You can also learn more about theDeboer Rowse family and help them by making a donation on their website, and by sharing this article with as many people as you can.
Jean Ann Esselink is straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle. Follow me on Twitter as @Uncucumbered or friend me on Facebook.
Radar Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
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