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Judge Rules Lesbian Couple Can Challenge Michigan’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban – Cites Supreme Court’s DOMA Decision

by Jean Ann Esselink on July 2, 2013

in DOMA,Families,Jean Ann Esselink,Legal Issues,Marriage,News

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Little Nolan, Ryanne, and Jacob, smiling at you in the photo above, came one step closer to gaining their equality yesterday, and so did every same-sex couple in Michigan. Federal District Judge Bernard Friedman issued an order denying Michigan Attorney General Bill Schutte’s Motion To Dismiss a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same sex marriages. Citing the Supreme Court’s historic decision last week, Judge Freidman said Jayne and April DeBoer-Rowse are “entitled to their day in court and they shall have it.”

It was Judge Friedman himself, who suggested Jayne and April DeBoer-Rowse challenge Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban, enacted by popular vote in 2004. The couple originally brought suit seeking only that they both be allowed to adopt the three children they rescued, and are raising together. April has adopted Ryanne, and Jayne has adopted Jacob and Nolan because Michigan law currently allows only one or the other to adopt. Their suit claimed that restriction has harmed their children, denying them all the rights and privileges other children in two-parent families enjoy.

(If you haven’t heard the story of Supermoms April and Jayne’s rescue of their children, it’s a must read. Just click this link, but grab a box of tissues first, you are going to need them.) 

The State of Michigan brought a motion to dismiss April and Jayne’s petition, and it was during a hearing on that motion last August, that Judge Friedman stunned the women by offering them a choice. Observing that their adoption problem stemmed from the 2004 amendment to the Michigan Constitution that bans same-sex marriages, he would either rule on their case as submitted, or he would allow them to amend their complaint to challenge that law. He gave them 30 days to decide.

With no support from any of the LGBT organizations, Jayne and April agonized over their decision, but in the end, they had to try for the golden ring. Court watchers speculated Judge Friedman would strike down Michigan’s “DOMA” Amendment at a hearing last March, but instead, he once again surprised everyone by delaying his decision until after the Supreme Court ruled on DOMA, so that he could be instructed by their opinion.

As we all know, last week the Supreme Court ruled, and this week, so did Judge Freidman. In the order he issued yesterday  allowing Jayne and April’s lawsuit to go forward, the judge quoted from the Supreme Court’s opinion, in which Justice Kennedy noted not allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry relegates “same-sex relationships to a form of second-tier status” and restricts the rights of “children now being raised by same-sex couples.”

“That is exactly the type of harm plaintiffs seek to remedy in this case.” observed Judge Friedman.

Attorney General Schutte responded to the ruling by saying he looks forward to “aggressively defending Michigan’s constitution.” But Jayne and April seemed buoyed by yesterday’s decision. Always nervous in front of the cameras, April couldn’t help but smile. “I’m hopeful.” she told reporters. “I’m hopeful.”

A court hearing has been set for July 10 to determine a trial date.


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