Last year, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse decided they wanted to challenge Michigan’s law banning adoption by unmarried couples so they could both be legally recognized as the parents of their three special-needs children. Federal Judge Bernard A. Friedman suggested they also challenge the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, since the adoption law worked in conjunction with the amendment, so they refiled their suit accordingly. This week, Friedman dismissed the state’s request for dismissal, suggesting the couple will succeed on the merits of their claim.
According to Friedman, the Supreme Court’s ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act provides significant precedent for a challenge to Michigan’s marriage amendment. Though the state might use it to argue that defining marriage is a right reserved to the states, the plaintiffs also have a compelling equal protection argument to make:
Plaintiffs are prepared to claim Windsor as their own; their briefs sure to be replete with references to the newly enthroned triumvirate of Romer v. Evans, Lawrence v. Texas, and now Windsor. And why shouldn’t they? The Supreme Court has just invalidated a federal statute on equal protection grounds because it“place[d] same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage.”
Moreover, and of particular importance to this case, the justices expressed concern that the natural consequence of such discriminatory legislation would not only lead to the relegation of same-sex relationships to a form of second-tier status, but impair the rights of “tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples” as well. This is exactly the type of harm plaintiffs seek to remedy in this case.
Friedman is the second judge to cite Windsor since it was decided last week. Judge David Lawson issued a decision last week that also dealt with same-sex partner benefits in Michigan, blocking a law that would have prevented the domestic partners of state employees from receiving health insurance benefits.
A poll in May found that 56.8 percent of Michigan voters support marriage equality, with 54 percent prepared to vote overturn the state’s ban.