April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse had sued the state initially over
Michigan's adoption law and later expanded their challenge to
include the state's ban on gay marriage, which was approved as a
constitutional amendment by voters in 2004.
The trial in U.S. District Court in Detroit is the latest in a
series of challenges brought by gay rights supporters that are
winding their way through federal and state courts following two key
decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court last year.
The U.S. Supreme Court in June threw out a key part of the Defense
of Marriage Act, which denied same-sex couples federal benefits that
are available to heterosexual couples. A separate decision allowed
same-sex marriage in California.
"They are cautiously optimistic," attorney Dana Nessel, who
represents DeBoer and Rowse, said of the couple.
Michigan's attorney general has said in court papers the marriage
amendment voters adopted in 2004 is rationally related to legitimate
state interests and marriage between one man and one woman is
"uniquely suited to the rearing of children."
"There is no dispute that there is a fundamental right to marry,"
the attorney general said in court papers. "But there is no
fundamental right to marry a person of the same sex."
A decade ago, only one state was preparing to allow same-sex
marriages. Overall, 17 states and the District of Columbia now allow
In the Michigan case, Judge Bernard Friedman in October ordered a
trial on the state's marriage ban and adoption law. Several courts
around the country have struck down same-sex marriage bans since he
ordered the trial.
[to top of second column]
Federal judges ruled gay marriage bans unconstitutional in Utah,
Oklahoma and Virginia in decisions that have been stayed pending
appeal. The New Mexico Supreme Court also has ruled gay marriage
legal in that state.
Nessel said Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage and adoption leaves
DeBoer, who has an adopted daughter, and Rowse, who has two adopted
Last week, Rowse underwent a common surgery and had she been
incapacitated or worse, DeBoer would not have had control of her
sons, Nessel said.
"Every single day that our clients don't have legal rights to their
own children is another day that those children are left
unprotected," Nessel said.
(Reporting by James B. Kelleher in Detroit and David Bailey in
Minneapolis; editing by Ken Wills)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.