Michigan same-sex marriage plaintiffs: ‘We’re in awe’

Hazel Park nurses April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse just wanted to adopt each others’ children.

Today, that battle landed them in America’s history books as the U.S. Supreme Court decided to take up the issue of same-sex marriage, which is what the two Michigan nurses ended up having to fight for in order to adopt each others’ kids.

« We’re in awe that this day has happened, » said Michigan plaintiff Jayne Rowse, who along with her partner of 10-plus years is fighting to overturn Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Rowse and April DeBoer, who are raising four special needs children together, have vowed from the get-go that they would not give up that fight, even if it meant going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Their persistence paid off Friday afternoon, when they got a phone call from their lawyer, telling them the nation’s highest court had agreed to hear their case.

Attorney Dana Nessel is on the phone with her client April DeBoer as she learns their case will be heard by the Supreme Court. Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press
Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press

« It’s overwhelming. This is just so overwhelming, » Rowse said at a press conference in Ferndale tonight.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up same-sex marriage cases from four states: Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky.

The Michigan case — the only one that had a trial — had a unique start. It started out as an adoption case but morphed into a marriage equality case after a federal judge suggested to DeBoer and Rowse that if they wanted to adopt children together, they had to first challenge the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

So they did. And they won. But a federal appeals court harpooned their hopes in November when they overturned the decision, concluding the issue of gay marriage is best left up to voters, not judges.

The nurses disagreed and went up the chain up command, to the nation’s highest court.

« We saw something that was wrong and we decided we needed to make it right, » said DeBoer, who believes her family deserves legal recognition, just like everyone elses.

Gay marriage is now legal in 36 states. Depending on what the U.S. Supreme Court decides, it could become legal in all 50.

DeBoer’s attorney, Dana Nessel, said a decision from the high court is long overdue.

« If you are a person that is affected by these laws that discriminate against same-sex couples and their families — if you are April and Jayne and their children — this cannot possibly come soon enough, » said Nessel, who believes the same-sex marriage issue « be decided once and for all, and that it apply to all 50 states of the union.

Rowse also noted that their « families, communities and the schools all see us as a family. We juggle our jobs and a houseful of children and wouldn’t have it any other way. »

Now, Rowse hopes the U.S. Supreme Court sees it that way, too, saying: « Soon, we hope to have the same recognition and share the same protections and responsibilities as all other families. »

Contact Tresa Baldas: tbaldas@freepress.com

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