Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Michigan Marriage Equality Case

Source: National Marriage Challenge
Published: 2015-01-16
Summary: U.S. Supreme Court to review federal appeals court decision upholding Michigan ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

By granting the petition filed by Michigan couple April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, the Court will be considering Michigan's ban on marriage as well as those in the other states still denying marriage licenses to gay couples. Today's move means the high Court will rule on the issue of marriage equality by the end of June 2015. The court has also agreed to hear cases from Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Friends who supported each other through nursing school and now a committed couple for more than 10 years, DeBoer and Rowse are both hospital nurses and the parents of four special-needs children whom they fostered and then adopted. They originally challenged Michigan's adoption code so that they could adopt their children jointly rather than as "single" individuals, and provide them the security of having two legal parents. They later challenged the state's marriage ban since it keeps April and Jayne, as well as the children, from being legally recognized as a family and from the protections other families enjoy. They argue that state laws banning marriage equality violate the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process.

"We are now that much closer to being fully recognized as a family, and we are thrilled," said DeBoer. "This opportunity for our case to be heard by the Supreme Court gives us and families like ours so much reason to be hopeful."

A recent family photo of April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse with their children (L-R) Nolan, Jacob, Rylee, and Ryanne. (Photo Credit: National Marriage Challenge)
A recent family photo of April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse with their children (L-R) Nolan, Jacob, Rylee, and Ryanne. (Photo Credit: National Marriage Challenge)
The DeBoer-Rowse family is represented by Michigan attorneys Carole M. Stanyar; Dana Nessel of Nessel and Kessel Law; Kenneth Mogill of Mogill, Posner & Cohen; Wayne State University Law Professor Robert Sedler; and Mary Bonauto of the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

"By choosing to hear the DeBoer case, the Court now has the opportunity to end the injustices facing gay families in Michigan and so many other states, and to ensure that same-sex couples nationwide are free to move for work, school, or to care for elderly parents without jeopardizing their family's security," said Nessel.

"Our families, communities and the schools all see us as a family," said Rowse. "We juggle our jobs and a houseful of children and wouldn't have it any other way. Soon, we hope to have the same recognition and share the same protections and responsibilities as all other families."

DeBoer et al v. Snyder was the only case to go to trial among dozens decided or pending nationwide since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. United States in June 2013. In a nine-day trial in February and March of 2014, Michigan District Court Judge Bernard A. Freidman heard expert testimony from the nation's leading psychologists, sociologists, child welfare professionals, and historians. In a ruling on March 21, Judge Freidman struck down Michigan's ban on marriages and "any similar union," concluding the state "may no longer impair the rights of their children and the thousands of others now being raised by same-sex couples" and "the guarantee of equal protection must prevail." The state immediately filed an appeal, but in the interim, hundreds of couples in Michigan were legally married.

Multiple other court rulings since Windsor have established marriage equality as the governing law. In October 2014, the Supreme Court declined to review rulings by the Fourth, Seventh and Tenth Circuits that all found state marriage bans unconstitutional.

On November 6, 2014, two judges of the three-member panel in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Friedman's decision and those of courts in Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky. Within weeks, attorneys for DeBoer and Rowse filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court.

"Families like April and Jayne's have been deprived of the status, dignity, security, and stability that marriage brings for far too long," said Stanyar. "This Court should hold that prohibiting same-sex couples from joining in marriage violates our nation's most cherished and essential guarantees."

Bonauto reflected on the long struggle for marriage equality in the United States, asserting "In the 10-plus years since same-sex couples started marrying in Massachusetts, thousands more have been able to marry across the United States, bringing them happiness and security - and harming no one," said Bonauto. "It is time to end the legal bans that single out same-sex couples for disrespect and instead allow them to make this unique promise to one another and provide greater protection and security for their families."

National Marriage Challenge, formerly Michigan Marriage Challenge, is a non-profit organization run by local Michigan residents committed to marriage equality in Michigan and across the country. National Marriage Challenge is an accredited 501(c)(3) formed for the purpose of supporting the DeBoer-Rowse Family in their legal effort. 100% of contributions to National Marriage Challenge go towards litigation and education expenses on DeBoer v Snyder.

For more information about the case, or to contribute, please visit

To download the original petition filed in the Supreme Court please visit

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