Meet the Michigan couple petitioning the Supreme Court for marriage equality

Longtime couple April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are the parents of three special-needs children. They originally sought to change Michigan's adoption code so that their children would have the same security and protections as children of heterosexual married couples. However, at the suggestion of the federal judge, the pleadings were amended to challenge the state's marriage ban.

“It’s been incredible to see other loving couples marry in state after state,” said Rowse. “It has been our dream, and remains our dream, for our family to make the same public commitment and share in the same protections and responsibilities here in our home state of Michigan that those families enjoy. We hope we can achieve that someday, if the Supreme Court is willing to hear us.”

"I'm glad we're finally here,” said co-counsel Carole Stanyar. “It's in the Court's hands now."

Attorneys for DeBoer and Rowse have filed their petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case, seeking to overturn the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision prohibiting same-sex marriage in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee.

“When we first brought this case, we vowed to do anything we had to in order to protect our children and our family, even if that meant having to take our case all the way to the Supreme Court,” said DeBoer. “That day is finally here, and we hope the Court sees fit to accept our case and provide the same security to our family that other families count on.”

One of the last remaining cases that could produce a nationwide ruling on marriage equality during the Supreme Court's current term, DeBoer et al v. Snyder was the only case to go to trial among dozens decided or pending nationwide. After expert testimony from the nation’s leading psychologists, sociologists, child welfare professionals, and historians, Judge Bernard A. Freidman, of the District Court sitting in Detroit, struck down Michigan’s marriage ban, concluding the state “may no longer impair the rights of their children and the thousands of others now being raised by same-sex couples” and “the guarantee of equal protection must prevail.” The state immediately filed an appeal, but in the interim, hundreds of couples in Michigan were legally married.

“Every day that our clients, their children, and the tens of thousands of families like theirs go without the myriad of rights attached to marriage is another day of uncertainty and unnecessary suffering,” said Dana Nessel, co-counsel for the DeBoer-Rowse family. “We hope the Supreme Court will resolve this as soon as possible.”

Multiple other court rulings established marriage equality in dozens of states, until on November 6, two of the three-member panel in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Friedman’s decision and those of courts in Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky, breaking ranks with other courts’ decisions. The opinion held that marriage prohibitions should be resolved by “the democratic process.” Circuit Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey wrote the dissenting opinion, reminding her colleagues the court’s purpose in enforcing the constitution is to “ensure that rights, liberties, and duties need not be held hostage by popular whims.”

“If we in the judiciary do not have the authority, and indeed the responsibility, to right fundamental wrongs left excused by a majority of the electorate, our whole intricate, constitutional system of checks and balances, as well as the oaths to which we swore, prove to be nothing but shams,” she wrote.

Read the full petition to the Supreme Court here.




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