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Lesbian couple challenges Michigan's same-sex marriage ban

DeBoer Rowse Adoption Legal Fund

A lesbian couple from the Detroit suburb of Hazel Park is using an ongoing lawsuit to challenge Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriages.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are jointly raising three special-needs children, who initially came to them through the foster care system, since birth. They’ve already filed suit in federal court, challenging the state code that forbids unmarried couples from adopting.

But Rowse and DeBoer have now amended the suit to explicitly challenge the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, civil unions, and other legally-recognized same-sex partnerships.

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 lawsuit names Governor Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette, and Oakland County clerk Bill Bullard as upholders of the “unconstitutional” law.

“We’re asking that an order be entered enjoining these state actors from blocking the same-sex marriage of couples,” said Dana Nessel, one of the couple’s attorneys.

“We are asking that Judge [Bernard] Freeman declare the Michigan Marriage Amendment unconstitutional.”

Nessel said this case differs from similar cases in other states. She said those have generally happened in states where same-sex couples can have some form of legally-recognized partnership.

“Our constitutional amendment is very specific,” Nessel said. “It does not allow not only for marriages, but for civil unions, domestic partnerships, or anything else that would convey legal rights to people as a same-sex couple.

“Michigan is one of only five states in the entire country that does not have any structure available to recognize a second same-sex parent. And we think that’s abhorrent.”

Schuette has asked Friedman to dismiss the initial lawsuit. He said the law was approved by voters and should be changed through legislation, not the courts.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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