Starting a family can be one of the most difficult and time consuming processes you will ever undertake. Despite all the hard work and effort, the journey should also give way to a feeling of great joy and satisfaction. Unfortunately, as a gay or lesbian individual or a same-sex couple, the process is often times more difficult because of the judgments and prejudices that exist in today’s society. There are those, both inside and outside the government, who believe that gay or lesbian individuals and same-sex couples are not qualified to be parents. The regrettable truth is that these prejudices can have an effect on the adoption process.
At Nessel & Kessel Law we believe that LGBT individuals and couples should have the same constitutionally protected right to form a family that heterosexuals enjoy. We will fight to make sure that the only criteria examined by the courts and adoption officials is whether or not a child is being brought into a loving home. If you are considering bringing a child into your family, you need a legal team who has the most experience fighting on behalf of gay and lesbian families.
In 2010, in the case of Harmon v Davis, Dana Nessel fought for the child custody rights of a lesbian woman who had separated from her long-term partner. Renee Harmon and Tammy Davis were a lesbian couple who had been in a relationship for 19 years, during which time Tammy Davis bore three children to the couple. For nearly a decade, both parents raised the children, each contributing their time, money and love as any parent would. Unfortunately, Renee and Tammy eventually separated. Following the separation, Tammy denied Renee any access to their children. Dana Nessel represented Ms. Harmon as she sued for custody of the children, arguing that while she was not a biological parent, she was just as much a parent to the children as Ms. Davis. For the first time in Michigan history, the circuit court ruled that a non-biological parent in a same-sex couple had rights as an equitable parent to the children she planned and raised. Sadly, the case was later overturned by the Michigan appellate courts after a long and heart wrenching battle.
In response to the narrow-minded and shameful application of the law in the state courts, in 2012, Nessel & Kessel Law filed suit in federal court in the matter of DeBoer v Snyder, taking on Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette for their enforcement of the Michigan Adoption Code which prohibits same-sex couples from jointly adopting a child. The case involves April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, a lesbian couple who work as nurses at local Detroit hospitals. The couple has been in a committed relationship for ten years, during which time they welcomed three special needs newborns into their home, each who had been abandoned or surrendered at birth. While April, Jayne and their children live together as a family, because of Michigan law, April and Jayne cannot jointly adopt the children. This is not only a denial of their equal rights to parent, but also creates a host of legal and practical problems for their children. We are challenging the law on behalf of April and Jayne, as well as their children, as a violation of the family’s constitutionally protected rights to equal protection under the law.
At Nessel & Kessel Law, we are committed to fighting for the rights of our clients, regardless of sexual orientation. Whether you are a same-sex couple or a gay or lesbian individual who is looking to adopt, you need representation by attorneys who have the courage and the experience to guide you through this process. We believe in the opportunity for all people, gay or straight, single or in a committed relationship, to have the chance to bring a child into their home and to form a loving and caring family.