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Lesbian Couple Fight Michigan Law That Prohibits Adoptions by Unmarried Couples


A lesbian couple from Oakland County filed a federal lawsuit today to overturn a state law that prevents unmarried couples in gay, lesbian and heterosexual relationships from jointly adopting children.


April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, state-certified foster parents who are trying to jointly adopt three abandoned or surrendered newborns that they took into their household during the past two years, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

“The State of Michigan found these women good enough to put their blood, sweat and tears into raising these children,” their lawyers, Dana Nessel of Detroit and Carole Stanyar of Plymouth, said in a prepared statement announcing the suit. “To now deny them the opportunity to both become legal parents to the children they love, and who are the only parents they have ever known, is totally irrational and serves no legitimate purpose.”

There was no immediate comment from Gov. Rick Snyder or Attorney General Bill Schuette, who were sued in their official capacities.

The lawsuit seeks to enjoin Snyder, Schuette and judges from blocking second parent adoptions in Michigan.

DeBoer, a neo-natal intensive care nurse, and Rowse, an emergency room nurse, have been in a committed relationship for 10 years, the suit said. During the past two years, they took in two boys and a girl shortly after they were born.

DeBoer adopted a 23-month-old girl who was surrendered by her 19-year-old mother. Rowse adopted the 2-year-old boys. One was born to a homeless woman and the other to a drug-addicted prostitute. All three children have experienced health problems.

Rowse wants to adopt the girl and DeBoer wants to adopt the boys, but they can’t under Michigan law. The state Constitution prohibits same-sex couples from marrying. Although married couples and single people can adopt a child in Michigan, an unmarried couple cannot. Only one of the parents may adopt.

The lawsuit seeks to strike down the prohibition on the grounds that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It says children of unmarried second parents seeking to adopt in Michigan are denied legal, emotional, financial, social, medical and other benefits.

The suit says sociological and psychological evidence shows that unmarried straight, gay or lesbian couples are just as loving, carrying and effective parents as married couples.

The suit said there are major benefits for children to have two legal parents rather than one, including the right to have a parent if the first parent dies, the right to dependency benefits such as social security, workers compensation, pensions, insurance, and the right to have at least one parent available to make decisions if the other parent is unavailable or incapacitated.

“Jayne and I love our children as deeply as any other parent loves their kids,” DeBoer said in the statement announcing the suit. “We just want our children to have the same protections all other children have so that our kids know they can never be taken from either of us.”

The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman.



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