A Detroit area-based lesbian couple currently battling Michigan’s ban on adoption by unmarried couples will go one step further by entering the local fight for same-sex marriage.
As The Detroit News is reporting, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse — who earlier this year filed a civil rights lawsuit to change their state’s law barring same-sex couples from adopting — announced plans to amend their complaint during a Sept. 7 news conference. They are now challenging Gov. Richard Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette and Oakland County Clerk Bill Bullard Jr. to declare Michigan’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, in addition to asking for the right to adopt as a same-sex couple, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The couple told local reporters that the sole motivation was their three children.
“Lots of things could happen if we don’t protect their rights,” DeBoer is quoted by the News as saying. “For Jayne and I, this fight is and always will be about the rights and protections of our children. It has never been about our rights.”
DeBoer and Rowse have been raising 3-year-old Nolan and 2-year-old Ryanne, who were abandoned at birth, and 2-year-old Jacob, who they have raised since he was four months old. All three children are reportedly special needs, and DeBoer and Rowse say they are concerned their children could lose health insurance and other benefits open to children of married couples.
Since Rowse and DeBoer are not both legal parents to all of their children, only one of them can make legal and medical decisions for each child. If one partner dies, the other has no legal claim to the children she did not legally adopt.
“This is totally not what we expected by any means,” Rowse added, according to the Detroit Free Press. “We wanted to keep the kids’ rights at the forefront, the rights that any other child has.”
Michigan is one of five states that bans joint adoption by unmarried parents. In the past seven years, a number of proposals have reportedly been introduced to allow second-parent adoption, none of which have been passed. Last year, two new state proposals, House Bill 4249 and Senate Bill 169, were introduced and are currently sitting in committee.
The Associated Press reports that the Hazel Park couple is the first to challenge the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, which passed in 2004.
“The state gave them children who had been abandoned and surrendered at birth to raise,” Dana Nessel, an attorney acting on behalf of the couple, is quoted by Pink News as saying. “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.”