Marriage Equality

Same-Sex Marriage Bans in Michigan and Around the Country Violate Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, Says SCOTUS

Today is a truly historic day.

Today is a day for celebration.

Today, on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States decreed — by a vote of 5–4 — once and for all that marriage is an equal and fundamental civic right for all American citizens, regardless of sexual orientation and regardless of where they live.

This long-awaited decision on marriage equality

This long-awaited decision on marriage equality affects our own clients here in Michigan, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, but also families just like theirs throughout the Sixth Circuit, and the nation.

With the long and short of it, Justice Anthony Kennedy:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

It is so ordered.

Marriages in Michigan are expected to begin immediately.

County clerks lined up by the dozen this morning, ready to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Michigan who’ve waited so long for the day they got to say ‘I do’. And now? Now, there’s no more waiting.

Congratulations, Michigan. Congratulations to us all.

Love won.

The Right to Same-Sex Marriage… And Divorce

Even as I sit down at my keyboard today, writing this seems counterintuitive to that which the attorneys of Michigan’s Nessel & Kessel Law, and their clients are traveling to the nation’s capital next week to argue, but the more I think, and the more I type, the more I realize the issues are one, and the same.

For years same-sex couples and activists have fought a system stacked ever-so-clearly in favor of heterosexual couples for the right to marry — and the right to divorce.

Considering same-sex divorce

The D-word. It’s not a word any couple wants to think about considering. But it happens. Same-sex couples love the same as straight couples; they cohabitate the same; they fight the same; and sometimes, they seek same-sex divorce.

Just as marriage equality is poised to sweep the whole of the nation once and for all, same-sex divorce is poised to boom. And that’s no surprise, for the simple fact of the matter that more couples are eligible to be married, and so more are eligible to be divorced.

A recent study done by the Williams Institute at UCLA found that out of the 640,000 total same-sex couples in the United States, 50,000 of those couples married in 2011.

Imagine that number today, four years later.

What the Williams Institute also found was that, in states where it was allowed, the marriage rate among homosexual couples was rising quickly toward that of heterosexual couples (e.g., In Massachusetts, in 2011, 68 percent of gay couples were married, compared to 91 percent of heterosexual couples).

Durability and longevity of same-sex marriage

Some have argued: But the evidence shows that same-sex marriages are more durable, and last longer than straight marriages! Well, yes. For now.

While what Williams Institute researchers found backs up this claim (About one percent of gay marriages dissolve each year, while that number is double for straight couples.), that just can’t last. People are fickle, and fight; people cheat, and they lie. People get married, and stay married for all the wrong reasons.

Love is love, no matter the sex of the lovers.

But just as true is this:

Irreconcilable differences are irreconcilable, no matter the sex of the couple.

That is why, just as heartily as we will argue for same-sex couples’ right to wed, we will open the doors to our office in Ann Arbor, Michigan for couples seeking a same-sex divorce.

Laws Change, And Marriage Evolves

For some, marriage is a holy sacrament, heavily tied to religion and its customs. But for others, and as far as the law of the land is concerned, marriage is a civically recognized union or legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them, as well as between them and their children.

As we amp up to present the issue of same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court of the United States next month, we’d like to take a moment and present this to you: A timeline that illustrates the evolution of marriage — traditional, or otherwise — in these United States.

In 1830…

Mississippi becomes the first state to grant married women the right to own property in their own name, where before all property was owned exclusively by the husband.

In 1862…

Passage of the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act makes bigamy in the territories a felony punishable by a $500 fine or five years in prison. (Before, until, and for nearly three decades after this time, polygamy was a common, and accepted practice of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

By 1900…

All states have followed suit, and married women can own property.

In 1907…

It becomes law that all women shall take on their husband’s nationality (upon any marriage that occurs after this date.)

In 1933…

Married women are granted national citizenship, independent of their husbands.

In 1948…

California becomes the first state to overturn a ban on interracial marriage.

In 1965…

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) overturns the law that prohibits married couples from using contraception.

Two years later, in 1967…

SCOTUS overturns the law that prohibits interracial marriage.

In 1969…

California becomes the first state to adopt a no-fault divorce law.

In 1971…

The Supreme Court refuses to hear a challenge to the Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that prohibits same-sex marriage.

In 1973…

Maryland becomes the first state to define marriage as existing “between a man and a woman” by statute.

In 1976…

The Supreme Court overturns laws that require married women to obtain consent from their husbands before undergoing an abortion procedure.

It wasn’t until 1993 that…

All 50 states had revised laws to include marital rape.

By 1994…

80 percent of US states have laws in place that ban same-sex marriage.

In 1996…

President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law.

In 2004…

While other states continue to rush to ban same-sex unions, Massachusetts becomes the first state to grant, and recognize same-sex marriage.

In 2008…

New York starts recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions (i.e., Massachusetts), while Connecticut and California follow Massachusetts’ lead. California’s time on the right side of history was short, as Proposition 8 passed later that same year.

In 2013…

The Supreme Court overturns the Defense of Marriage Act, and posits that there is no legal standing to hear an appeal regarding the overturning of California’s Proposition 8; marriages begin once more in that state.

To date…

Thirty-seven states, plus the District of Columbia recognize, and grant same-sex marriage, but many others (including those in the Sixth Circuit) hold fast to their bans. And it is for this reason that the attorneys of Nessel & Kessel will travel to Washington DC with our clients, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, in just a few short weeks to stand before our nation’s highest court and argue, the time is now: Legalize same-sex marriage once and for all.

The National Media Focuses on DeBoer v Snyder

At Nessel and Kessel Law, specifically Dana Nessel, we have been fielding requests from media outlets from all over the world regarding our challenge to Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage. 

Here is a link to a recent story done by the New York Times, featuring our clients and their attorney, Dana Nessel.

Here is a link to another recent story done by The Guardian, a Manchester, England based newspaper. 

Lesbian Couple Refused Treatment by Doctor

Recently, members of the Michigan Legislature decided – in their infinite wisdom – that the Elliot Larson Act (Michigan’s Civil Rights Act) would not be amended to protects against discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity.  

Krista and Jami Contreras, a couple from southeast Michigan, adopted their daughter in October 2014.  Naturally, they sought out a pediatrician for their infant daughter.  Dr. Vesna Roi came highly recommended to them by the midwife who assisted on the birth of their daughter.  The couple met with Dr. Roi, who appeared to look forward to treating their newly born daughter.  However, when Krista and Jami arrived for their daughter’s first wellness appointment they were told by one of Dr. Roi’s colleagues that she (Dr. Roi) would not be treating their daughter because of the couples’ sexual orientation.  Yes, that’s right, a doctor refused to treat a patient because of the parents’ sexual orientation.  Here is a link to a story by Fox 2’s Amy Lange, where Krista, Jami, and civil rights attorney Dana Nessel speak about the situation. 

Unfortunately, law makers in Michigan seem intent on allowing for state sanctioned, protected discrimination  against members of the LGBT community.  The current state of the Michigan law allows for workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, refusal of basic medical services because of a patient’s sexuality, housing discrimination, educational discrimination, refusal to allow for second parent adoptions in the cases of same-sex couples, and of course, the denial of the right to marry.  Now, as we can see, Michigan’s laws even allow for the refusal of medical services because of a family member’s sexual orientation.  The fact that there are ZERO protections for members of the LGBT community is something that the Michigan Legislature is clearly very proud of.   

At Nessel and Kessel Law, we are proud to stand up for the rights of members of the LGBT community.  Nessel and Kessel Law has spearheaded Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage, and are headed to the United States Supreme Court in April, to fight for this basic human right.  If you or a loved one has been discriminated against because of sexual orientation or your status as a member of the LGBT community, contact the attorneys at Nessel and Kessel Law today. 

Detroit Attorney Dana Nessel Wins 2014 State Bar of Michigan Champion of Justice Award

Detroit Attorney Dana NesselGaining great ground in the fight for marriage equality inside Michigan courtrooms is certainly amongst attorney Dana Nessel’s most proud professional achievements, and legal leaders across the state are starting to take serious notice.

Last month, Nessel received word from the State Bar of Michigan Board of Commissioners informing her that the legal team behind the landmark DeBoer v. Snyder case was to be honored as recipients of the 2014 Champion of Justice award. According to the organization’s website, only five of these prestigious awards are given each year to practicing attorneys and judges as nominated by the State Bar of Michigan.

The State Bar of Michigan takes into account the following criteria when considering award recipients:

  • Member in good standing of the State Bar of Michigan for at least ten years or more.
  • Strong adherence to the highest principles and traditions of the legal profession with unwavering integrity.
  • Superior professional expertise.
  • Making an outstanding professional achievement that provides benefits to the local, state, or national community in which the lawyer or judge lives.

Nessel along with the other four winners will be honored at a banquet set to be held in Grand Rapids in mid-September 2014. The entire team at Nessel and Kessel Law is very proud of Dana, who has achieved so much not only for our firm but for the greater good of the community as well!

Obama & Fed Allowing Same Sex Marriage in Michigan, State Won’t

Despite a federal appeals court placing a stay on same-sex ceremonies in Michigan, the 300 homosexual couples who married beforehand will be permitted as valid unions. According to the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, these same-sex couples “will not be asked to wait for further resolutions by the courts.” Holder also added that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder “has made clear that the marriages that took place on Saturday were lawful and valid when entered into.”

For the time being, couples who married on Saturday in four major Michigan counties (Washtenaw, Oakland, Muskegon, and Ingham) will be allowed the exact same standing federal income and estate tax benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy. Still, a court could reject that standing at some point. While these marriages are legal under the eyes of federal law, state law as still yet to sort out its recognition. Statements from Governor Snyder imply that the state doesn’t intend on extending these rights and benefits to those couples until the legalities of same-sex unions are defined and recognized by state courts in Michigan.

The wave of same-sex couples seeking marriage came on Saturday following a the ruling from U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman that deemed the state’s ban on these unions unconstitutional. Despite the fact that Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an appeal and a panel from the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the ruling, the state will recognize the 300 marriages performed beforehand.

The experienced Detroit attorney who successfully represented Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer in their challenge of the state’s same-sex marriage ban applauded the federal government’s involvement and pro-marriage stance. Dana Nessel of Nessel and Kessel Law called the support from the Obama Administration “magnificent,” explaining “We expect no less. The federal government has been great. I stand by my previous position that they are all legally married, just like any others.”

Nessel did express criticism for Governor Snyder and the state’s attorney for delaying and fighting against gay-marriage legalization in Michigan. She noted that the governor is particularly contradictory as he recognizes the 300 marriages performed before the stay, but refuses to validate them. “It’s so offensive on a number of levels, particularly on a legal level,” she explained.

After the stay was extended on Tuesday, it is now likely that the case could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Those with questions regarding same-sex marriages in Michigan and second-parent adoptions should contact the knowledgeable legal team at Nessel and Kessel Law. As the law firm that spearheaded the case against the statewide ban, these skilled attorneys will not only best be able to answer any questions but also provide the best representation possible. Contact us today at 313-556-2300 to discuss your case today!

Michigan Makes Changes to the Adoption Tax Credit

It goes without saying that parenting is a really tough job, regardless of whether one is handling it solo, in a heterosexual relationship, or part of a same sex couple. Not only is the care and protection of children a big enough task, there are plenty of financial questions that come into play as well. This is especially true for parents exploring adoption.

Some Americans are aware that the maximum tax credit for adoptions was raised to $13,190 in 2014, but most aren’t clear on the guidelines that come along with it. In order to qualify for the adoption tax credit, one must have adopted a child and paid the total costs of the adoption. These tax credits vary on an individual basis and are based upon the amount of money one spends on the adoption process. Unfortunately, the adoption tax credit is not available for stepparent adoptions or adult adoptions. On the other hand, those who adopt special needs children are typically eligible to receive the full tax credit.

One’s annual income also plays a role in determining the tax credits available for adoption. If one’s adjusted gross income is equal or less than $197,880, they are eligible for the full tax credit. Those who make more than that amount annually can receive a reduced adoption credit, maxing out at incomes of $237,880. Therefore, those who earn over that amount each year are not eligible for the adoption tax credit.

If you are unsure of whether your family is eligible to receive the tax credit for adoption in Michigan, it is important to explore all of your legal rights. Contacting the experienced and knowledgeable Detroit adoption attorneys at Nessel and Kessel Law will not only give a confusing situation clarity, it will also ensure that all of a client’s rights are protected in front of the law. Don’t wait to explore all of our options, contact our skilled legal team at 313-556-2300 today!


Changes to Second Parent Adoptions in Michigan Could Be Coming

The last year has brought great changes to marriage law both in Michigan and across the United States. As the LGBT community inches closer to equal marriage rights, plenty of related questions are also raised; what do same-sex couples do when it comes to adopting children? Can both persons in a homosexual relationship adopt children so that they are both listed as parents? Not yet in the Great Lakes State, but changes could be coming according to the leading Detroit adoption attorneys at Nessel and Kessel Law.

Although Michigan’s Adoption Code does not currently allow same-sex couples to jointly adopt, this law could soon become a thing of the past. Judge Bernard Friedman is set to hear arguments on the future of second-parent adoptions in Michigan, as well as same-sex marriage in federal court later this month in Detroit. The legal team representing the highly publicized DeBoer-Rowse family, Nessel and Kessel Law, have assembled a nationally recognized team of expert witnesses who will testify about issues related to same-sex marriage and LGBT parenting. Should the attorneys prove successful, Judge Friedman could strike down Michigan’s ban on same-sex parent adoptions for homosexual couples. If the ruling is not stayed, these couples could begin adopting children very shortly afterward.

As experienced Michigan adoption lawyers, Nessel and Kessel knows first-hand  that same-sex parents thrive in these households to the same extent they would if in a home headed by married heterosexual partners. The only differences exist thank to Michigan’s Adoption Code and their ban on second-parent adoption. Our legal team looks forward to receiving the rulings in the DeBoer v. Snyder case and to living in a state where every child has the same protections afforded to families with heterosexual couples.

If you or a loved one has been considering second-parent adoption in Michigan, it is essential to be well-informed of all your rights and protections. Contacting an experienced and knowledgeable Detroit adoption lawyer will help clarify the legal process and ensure that every one of the client’s rights are protected. Reach out to the Nessel and Kessel law offices for more information on how we can help you by phoning us at 313-556-2300 today!

Detroit Gay Rights Attorney to Speak on Panel in Honor of Constitution Day

In honor of Constitution Day, the Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Ann Arbor campus is looking to get people talking. On Friday, September 20th, the school will host an interactive panel discussion entitled, “Finding Michigan’s Invisible People.”

The featured topic will be the pending DeBoer v. Snyder case, represented by the Michigan gay rights attorneys at Nessel and Kessel Law. This particular case was chosen because of the very serious constitutional issues it raises: the 2004 Michigan Marriage Amendment prohibiting the state from recognizing same-sex relationships, and the Michigan Adoption Code barring non-married couples from jointly adopting children.

Plaintiffs April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse have been in a committed relationship for many years and would get married if Michigan state law allowed it. Originally, the couple filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in order to challenge the Michigan adoption code—the ultimate obstacle in jointly adopting the three children they have adopted separately.  As the state refuses to allow same-sex couples from marrying and prohibits non-married couples from adopting, Judge Bernard Friedman allowed DeBoer and Rowse to amend their lawsuit to include an additional challenge to the state’s gay marriage ban.

“The United States Supreme Court has ruled several times, most recently this past June, that discrimination against gays and lesbians just because of their sexual orientation is unconstitutional,” explained professor of constitutional law at Cooley, Dan Ray. “The Constitution Day panel will discuss issues that are important to couples and families not just here in Michigan, but all across the country.”

The Detroit gay rights lawyers at Nessel and Kessel Law invite you to join the discussion and hear what our featured attorney, Dana Nessel, has to say about this potentially groundbreaking case!

Cooley Law School Ann Arbor Campus
3475 Plymouth Road
Held from 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
For more information, contact Julie Mullens at (734) 372-4900 ext. 8798 or by email