April DeBoer, of Hazel Park, left, and her partner Jayne Rowse, stand with their children Nolan DeBoer-Rowse, 3, Ryanne DeBoer-Rowse, 2, and Jacob DeBoer-Rowse, 2, during a press conference Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. / MANDI WRIGHT/Detroit Free Press
DETROIT (Detroit Free Press) - Hazel Park mother April DeBoer said she and her lesbian partner are challenging Michigan's same-sex marriage law not for themselves, but to protect the rights of their kids.
DeBoer and partner Jayne Rowse decided to take the battle they're already fighting in U.S. District Court in Detroit one step further today. They amended their complaint in front of Judge Bernard A. Friedman that asks for the right to adopt as a same-sex couple, instead challenging Michigan Governor Richard Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette and Oakland County Clerk Bill Bullard Jr. to declare Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage and partnerships unconstitutional.
"This is totally not what we expected by any means," Rowse said today, away from the podium during an announcement in the Penobscot Building. "We wanted to keep the kids' rights at the forefront, the rights that any other child has."
The couple said they worry that, if something should happen to one of them, their children could lose health insurance and other benefits open to children of married couples.
One of their lawyers, Dana Nessel, pointed out that the state of Michigan certified DeBoer and Rowse to become foster parents together but won't allow them to both adopt. Michigan law only allows singles or married couples to adopt.
Together, they have been raising 3 1/2-year-old Nolan and 2 1/2-year-old Ryanne, who were abandoned at birth, and 2 1/2-year-old Jacob, who they have raised since he was four months old.
"The state gave them children who had been abandoned and surrendered at birth to raise," Nessel said. "And they are raising them with all the love, nurturing, care and affection that any parent would give to any child. But the state then rewards these women by telling them while they are good enough to foster as a couple, they aren't good enough to adopt as a couple. We submit that this is pure and utter insanity."
Nessel, who took a battle between a same-sex couple all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and co-counsel Carole Stanyar said the challenge is the first since Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage in 2004.
The lawyers said Michigan is one of the few states that also does not recognize civil unions or other legal connections between same-sex couples.
"We are the Mississippi of the gay civil rights era here in Michigan, and I think that's shameful for all of us who live in this state," Nessel said.
Friedman has agreed to hold off on decisions on the women's first case until the state officials have time to respond to the newest evolution of the case, Stanyar said.
The case could take years as it winds its way through the court system, possibly through the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, she said.
By Tammy Stables Battaglia