The LGBT community in Michigan celebrated victory Friday as a federal judge lifted the state’s same-sex marriage ban. Bernard Friedman, a U.S. District Judge, made the ruling after an unusual trial that lasted two weeks and focused on children parented by same-gender loving couples.
To counter the ban’s repeal, which granted LGBT couples the legal right to marry in Michigan, Attorney General Bill Schuette hastened to file the case in federal appeals court.
No marriages were performed on Friday because the ruling came down after 5 p.m., and the Michigan clerk’s office which issues marriage licenses had already closed for the day.
In 2012, lesbian couple Jayne Rowse, 49, and April DeBoer, 42, filed a lawsuit to overturn the ruling that banned joint adoptions for Michigan’s same-sex couples.On Friday, DeBoer expressed joy and was heard on television saying, “We won, it’s unbelievable” in reference to the couple’s victory in court. The couple work as nurses in the Metro-Detroit area and are jubilant over the lifting of the same-sex marriage ban. Deciding to raise three special-needs children while working full-time is an accomplishment in itself. Denying legal protection through marriage places those same children in danger of being turned over to the state in the event of unforeseen circumstances. The thought of their children being lost to the system if something happened to either they or other LGBT parents is in part what kept the couple on the warpath for justice.
Court itself is a harrowing experience, but in this case, the trial came with the omnipresent threat of losing treasured time with loved ones as well as the right to be a part of daily life, school activities and family celebrations. It was with sincere joy that the couple listened as the verdict was read by Attorney Dana Nessell.
For this couple, the ban was not so much about them marrying, but for gaining peace of mind in their ability to protect the children they love and to keep them safe. With the ban in place, if Rowe or DeBoer took ill or passed away, the state would be able to come in and remove the children. It seems both unfair and unconstitutional, which is the argument that propelled the couple to stand strong against a state that seems to too often teeter on intolerance.
State attorneys shared with the judge that although the couple are great parents, it was important to respect the 2004 vote of Michigan citizens, who turned out in large numbers with 59 percent, and voted to keep marriage in Michigan between a man and a woman. At the time of the vote, scholars with a conservative bent proposed that children raised in same-sex households might suffer emotionally.
Sociology professor Mark Regnerus testified for the state of Michigan, and was called to task by the University of Texas. Experts testified for Rowse and DeBoer, citing no differences between the upbringing of children with same couples and those of heterosexual couples. The lifting of the same-sex marriage ban is a major victory for the LGBT community in Michigan. The victory affords all children the protection of parents who love them.
Opinion by C. Imani Williams