Meet the couple challenging Michigan's gay marriage ban

Oct 18, 2013

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse wanted to jointly adopt their children. The State of Michigan argued they couldn't because they were not married. Now the couple is challenging the ban on gay marriage.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse wanted to jointly adopt their children.

In the years that they’ve lived together, Rowse has adopted two children, and DeBoer adopted one, splitting the responsibilities of parenthood together. But a state ban on same-sex joint adoptions prohibited them from officially adopting their children together.

So in January 2012, DeBoer and Rowse filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that preventing such adoptions violated rights of their children.

But U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman told the couple to take their complaint further — challenge the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

“So what Judge Friedman...basically looked at the State and said, ‘So, this hinges on marriage?’  And the State said yes,” Rowse said.  “And [Friedman] said, ‘So, what it sounds like to me is you guys need to challenge the marriage amendment.’ And we all kind of looked at each other and went, ‘He did not just suggest  we challenge gay marriage?’ And, he did.”

Now their case to challenge the ban on same-sex marriage is becoming the most anticipated Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender rights case in Michigan.

The story above is part of the documentary: Unequal by law: Being gay in Michigan