Judge suggests Detroit lesbian couple challenge state’s marriage equality ban for full parenting rights

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A federal judge in Detroit this week suggested a lesbian couple challenge the state of Michigan’s ban on marriage equality – which is preventing them both being registered as their children’s parents.

As reported by Christine Ferretti in The Detroit News, Judge Bernard A. Friedman said he would issue a ruling on a state request to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the ban on adoptions by unmarried couples – but not before he suggested the plaintiffs amend their suit to encompass the state’s marriage amendment.

Judge’s Friedman’s suggestion followed a motion hearing in which the state asked him to throw out of court the case brought by a local lesbian couple who are raising three children.

However, state laws mean that both women cannot be registered as the children’s legal parents.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse cannot adopt their children together either, as this option extends only to heterosexual married couples and single people.

The couple have said that the law is unconstitutional and against their civil rights.

Judge Friedman said he’d look at both sides of the case before making any decision, but first wanted to give the plaintiffs ten days to think about amending their complaint to include a challenge to the state’s ban on marriage equality.

He told attorneys he believed that this was essentially the underlying issue: “Both arguments are about marriage and how broad or narrow it should be. That’s the bottom line.”

Joseph E. Potchen, a lawyer with the state Attorney General’s office, said the suit held no water because there was no evidence the couple could produce that the law was a detriment to their children’s well-being.

On the contrary, he said, the law “protected children”.

Mr Potchen added: “Adoption is not a right, it’s a statutory privilege.”

Any change to the state law – which does not allow any unmarried couples, gay or straight, to adopt – would have to come from the Legislature, the attorney general’s office said.

Robert Sedler argued on behalf of the couple that their children were indeed “suffering injury” with the provisions of Michigan law that denies them a second parent adoption solely because the parents cannot legally be married.

“To deny this adoption harms these children. To allow it harms no one.

“What we have here is irrationality in the literal sense of the word.”

Both plaintiffs work as nurses, own a home together and have three children.

Ms DeBoer was reportedly tearful after the hearing, saying: “I just want my kids to have the same rights as everyone else’s family.”