Deadline Now: Michigan's Same Sex Marriage Ban

Deadline Now: Michigan's Same Sex Marriage Ban

Friday, October 25, 2013

Should couples who aren’t married be allowed to adopt children? Is Michigan's state ban on same-sex marriage constitutional? A case now in federal court in Michigan is expected to decide both questions -- and could end up, should the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately take the case, making new law for the entire nation.

Nurses April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are a couple who has nurtured three special needs children since soon after their birth. They want to jointly adopt all three -- but Michigan only allows married couples and single people to adopt. Now Rowse and DeBoer are challenging both the state’s adoption code and marriage amendment.

Last week, many thought U.S. district judge Bernard Friedman might issue an immediate ruling -- but instead he set a February 25th trial date. Joining us this week to explore these issues are the plaintiffs, Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, and their lead attorney, Dana Nessel.

Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of "Deadline Now:"

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse have raised three children together, children born with a host of problems any of which would have overwhelmed some married couples.

Nevertheless, they jointly nursed them and nurtured them and made their lives worth living. They didn’t have to do that; they weren’t biologically related to them. But they did so because they wanted to. They also jointly want to adopt them, together.

But Michigan’s adoption code says they can’t. Nobody can adopt a child except a married couple or a single person.

That, when I found out about it, brought to mind that famous line from Oliver Twist: Sometimes the law is an ass.

That certainly seems to be the case here.  Everybody, including those attempting to deny their right to jointly adopt these children, has stipulated that April and Jayne have been wonderful, loving, nurturing parents. The state of Michigan’s case for not allowing the adoption seems to be based on the fact that citizens some years ago voted to outlaw same-sex marriage.

However, this is, after all, not about sexuality at all, but the well-being of children. April and Jayne’s three children are infinitely  better off in their home than they would have been almost anywhere else.

It makes no sense to argue that they would be better off had they been adopted by a single parent; kids do better in two parent households. What it special about this one is not that both parents are women; it is that both are nurses, which is a big plus.

What’s not a plus is that this family could be cruelly and legally broken up if one of the parents were to die.

Because of that, it is frankly hard to see why the judge didn’t strike down Michigan’s unfair adoption code on the spot. As for the constitutionality of marriage, well, the Supreme Court has already decided one case of a couple who were married illegally.

Much of society didn’t approve of their marriage either, and they were eventually arrested. But the Supreme Court unanimously invalidated every law that forbade them to marry. The case was called Loving vs. Virginia, and they weren’t a same sex couple, but an interracial one. In fifteen states, their union was a crime.

But in overturning those laws, the high court indicated this wasn‘t about race, but about people’s fundamental right to marry as they wish. “Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man,” the Chief Justice said then. Nearly half a century later, what the plaintiffs in this case want is for today‘s courts to agree.     

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