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Lesbian couple's challenge to Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage starts tomorrow

Paul Sancya
Associated Press
DeBoer, Rowse, and their three children.

In Michigan, if a homosexual couple adopts children, the legal rights to the children can only be assigned to one parent.

If something were to happen to the parent with legal rights, the child could be returned to foster care and the surviving parent would have no legal ground to get them back.

For couple Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, who have three adopted children, this fear is one they have had to live with for years. 

Tomorrow, a federal court case will begin that could change things in Michigan.

Michigan moms face the courts for right to adopt

Their struggle made the news over two years ago, when they decided to challenge Michigan's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

In a piece by Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek back in 2012, the couple discussed the lawsuit.

The couple says the ban-- approved by Michigan voters as Proposal 2 in 2004 -- denies their children the same rights and protections offered to opposite-sex parents and their children.

The Hazel Park family's case has quickly become one of the most watched in the state, as well as by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.

The opposition is also watching the lawsuit carefully, according to Tresa Baldas of the Detroit Free Press. A State of Michigan court document reads, 

More than 100 religious leaders from around the state are to rally in Detroit today in support of the ban. Among them is Apostle Ellis Smith of the Jubilee Church in Detroit. “We believe that the family structure is absolutely and eternally connected to human flourishing,? Smith said.

The couple pledge that the lawsuit will focus on the children, because they say that's really what this legal battle is about for them. They say they want to ensure a safe and secure home for their three children where their two moms are recognized by the law of the state.

Tomorrow the trial will get underway, and the key issue will focus on whether children raised by same-sex parents like DeBoer and Rowse fair better or worse than those raised by same-sex couples.

The state and lawyers for DeBoer and Rowse will look to scientific studies to make their points. 

The science of both sides

Same-sex parenting has become a hot-button issue in the public and in science in recent years. 

The Freep's Baldas highlights several studies that will likely be brought up.

Here's one in defense of the ban on same-sex marriage:

A 2012 University of Texas-Austin study by sociological professor Mark Regnerus, who is going to testify on behalf of Michigan, concluded that adult children of gays and lesbians were more likely to get involved with drugs, get divorced and be depressed than grown kids raised in heterosexual families. It also found that LGBT individuals and same-sex couples raising children face greater economic challenges that heterosexuals.

And one that conflicts with the ban from the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Over the past decade, 11 countries have recognized marriage equality and, thus, allow marriage between two partners of the same gender...There has been no evidence that children in these countries have experienced difficulties as a result of these social changes.

According to Gallup polls, the support for same-sex marriage has nearly doubled since 1996.

Today, more than half of all Americans support marriage equality.

Percent of Americans who support same-sex marriage.
Credit Gallup
Percent of Americans who support same-sex marriage.

Tomorrow, a federal judge will begin to gather evidence for his decision on Michigan's same-sex marriage ban.

Rick Pluta of the Michigan Public Radio Network will follow the court proceedings for us.

- Paige Pfleger, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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