When the same-sex marriage debate comes to a state, tremendous attention — and cash — fuels the local and national conversation. But one quiet case in Michigan, which The New Civil Rights Movement has been reporting since the beginning, may actually strike down the Great Lakes State’s nine-year old constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and there’s hardly a word to be heard about it.
In fact, there’s a chance same-sex marriage could be legal in Michigan by the end of the day today.
Regular readers remember well super-hero lesbian nurses April Deboer and her partner Jayne Rowse, about whom our own Jean Ann Esselink has been writing since last year. The couple have adopted three children, all with special needs, all just three or four-years old. April and Jayne have adopted the children as individuals, but not as a couple, since Michigan prohibits same-sex couples from adopting. Since the law decided Jayne and April couldn’t adopt their children as a couple, the couple decided that Jayne would adopt Nolan and Jacob, and April would adopt Ryanne.
“I find a lot of my straight friends who hold no ill-will toward gay people, but have had no personal experience with them, are under the impression a gay couple can draw up legal contracts and agreements between themselves so that they have all the rights and privileges of a married couple.,” our Jean Ann Esselink wrote in a tribute to the moms for Mother’s Day last year:
Jayne and April prove that is hardly the case. But it is not just their own rights that have been shortchanged by the law. In fact, nothing less than the security and future happiness of their children could be at stake.
There are many legal protections Nolan, Ryanne and Jacob are denied by the Michigan law, like insurance eligibility, inheritance rights and disability benefits, but the most glaring injustice is what could happen if either Jayne or April should die. The surviving parent would have no legal claim to the child of her partner. And the child who just lost one parent to death could lose his other parent and his siblings at the whim of the State of Michigan.
There is however, something that Michigan doesn’t know about Jayne and April, and that’s how hard they will fight for their children. Jayne and April have filed a lawsuit against Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schutte, claiming that the Michigan adoption law is “discriminatory, irrational, and only has the effect of hurting children and destabilizing families,” and that it “violates their right to Equal Protection under the United States Constitution.” A win could change the lives of tens of thousands of Michigan children, but that’s what superheroes do, they fight for justice.
As their case progressed, the judge — the conservative, federal court judge – unexpectedly invited April and Jayne to amend their lawsuit to contest Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage, something the couple hadn’t considered.
They decided to contest Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in September, sadly with little to no help from state and national LGBT organizations.
Last month, one of the defendants, Oakland County, refused to defend Michigan’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, leaving Governor Rick Snyder and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schute with having to tell the court why these two super-heroes should not be allowed to adopt their children and raise them as a loving family with two legally-married parents.
“Michigan’s limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples is rationally related to legitimate state interests—the preservation of the historic institution of marriage as a union of one man and one woman, which in turn, uniquely fosters responsible natural procreation, which in turn, promotes raising children in a home environment with both a mother and a father,” the state of Michigan is arguing. “Opposite-sex marriages have been recognized as promoting these ‘long-standing societal benefits’ because they are theonly sexual relationship capable of producing children.”
Tell that to April and Jayne, who have three wonderful children with special needs.
In December, groups like Equality Michigan, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Fund of Michigan, the Human Rights Campaign Fund (HRC), Lamdba Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., National Center for Lesbian Rights, Family Equality Council, Affirmations Community Center, Ruth Ellis Center, and KICK filed an amicus brief to support Jayne and April.
But sadly, April and Jayne tell The New Civil Rights Movement they have received no financial support from any LGBT organization for their case. None.
U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman later today will be hearing the case, interestingly, at Wayne State University, because he wants to use the proceedings as an educational experience.
It could prove to be extremely educational for many.
Judge Friedman has been known to deliver rulings from the bench, and LGBT groups believe there is a possibility, however slight, that if the judge rules in favor of Jayne and April, same-sex marriage equality could be the law of the land by the end of the day.
Of course, even if that’s the case, there likely will be an appeal, so don’t plan your Michigan same-sex wedding just yet. But you can hope.
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