Couple sees hope in Supreme Court decision


– Photo by Steve Thorpe

April DeBoer speaks as Jayne Rowse looks on during a press conference about recent Supreme Court decisions. The two Detroit-area nurses filed a lawsuit last year attacking a Michigan law that prohibits them from jointly adopting children because they're not married.

By Steve Thorpe
Legal News

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, at the center of a controversial federal case on gay rights, are trying to sort out the meaning of the U.S Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday.

“We’re still trying to understand everything that’s come down and how it affects us,” Deboer said. “It looks positive to our case. As we’ve always said, this isn’t a case about our marriage, this is a case about our children and the civil rights of our children.” Wayne State University Law School held a press conference Wednesday to talk about the school’s involvement in the case and introduce the couple at the center of it.

DeBoer and Rowse of Hazel Park, who live with their three young children, had appeared earlier this year before U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman for arguments in the case, which seeks to overturn the 2004 state constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage.

They originally began the case as a challenge to the state adoption code, which currently allows for only one member of a same-sex couple to be the legal parent of an adopted child.

Their challenge contends that the 2004 amendment, passed by popular vote, conflicts with the equal protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.

Rowse and DeBoer have been together for more than 13 years and say that they already consider themselves married. They’ve said their hope is that the judge will decide they can both be the parents of all their children in the eyes of the law.

“It has always been about our kids and our kids’ rights. The Marriage Act is a bonus,” Rowse stressed. “We will pursue this as far as we can and, if it ends up in the Supreme Court, it does. We’re optimistic that Judge Friedman does have what he needs to rule in our favor. We feel he is a very fair man and will take all of this into consideration.”

Friedman said earlier this year that he wouldn’t rule on the couple’s challenge until after the high court’s decision.

The case is DeBoer v. Snyder, 12-cv-10285, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan.

Attorneys Carole Stanyar and Dana Nessel represented Deboer and Rowse in federal court without a fee and consulted with noted constitutional law expert Wayne Law Professor Robert Sedler.

Sedler has been at Wayne State University Law School since 1977 and has litigated important civil rights and civil liberties cases in Michigan and elsewhere.

An author on the subject, he’s also a frequent commentator on constitutional issues in the Detroit and national media.

Nessel emphasized that the couple always focused on their children.

“When I met April and Jane, they came to me wanting to do what every family wants to do and that is protect their children,” she said. “We think our case would be a tremendous case to go before the U.S. Supreme Court. We would love to have that opportunity, but in the meantime we’re excited while anticipating the decision by Judge Friedman.”