February 25, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Psychologist in same-sex case says parents' gender irrelevant in child care

DeBoer v. Snyder
DeBoer v. Snyder: Michigan couple challenging the state's same-sex marriage ban

Detroit — Research shows a wide variety in how men and woman parent, but their gender is irrelevant to child outcomes, an expert testified Tuesday in a federal court trial challenging Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and adoption law.

“Both men and women do the same kinds of things. They can engage in the same kind of behavior,” psychologist David Brodzinksy testified in U.S District Court on Tuesday. “It’s not the gender of the parents that matters, it’s the quality of the care.”

Brodzinsky, an expert in adoption, foster care and same-sex parenting, said children of gay and lesbians show no discernible difference in outcome and general characteristics compared with children of heterosexual couples.

“Moms and dads are important as parents. They are not important as males and females,” he said.

The testimony came as part of a lawsuit brought by lawyers for a Hazel Park lesbian couple who are challenging Michigan’s law that does not allow same-sex couples to adopt each other’s children.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, both nurses, amended their lawsuit against the state to include a challenge against Michigan’s ban on gay marriage. The ban was approved by Michigan voters in 2004.

The case, being heard by U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, is being closely watched in anticipation of Michigan possibly becoming the next state to legalize gay marriage; same-sex unions have been legalized in 17 states.

Attorney Carol Stanyar, who represents DeBoer and Rowse, told the judge that marriage is an equal, gender-neutral partnership that brings stability and dignity to children.

“Marriage is central to life in America. It brings stability to families and helps children immensely,” Stanyar said. “We have a rare opportunity to rid ourselves of two laws that hurt so many people so deeply.”

Stanyar said Michigan’s ban against same-sex marriage and adoption hurts children and families, including her clients, who adopted premature and ill babies who are now thriving.

“These two women are heroes. Thousands of other same sex couples are heroes, too, rescuing children from the foster care system. They should be supported and celebrated,” Stanyar said. “We ask you to strike down these laws and show there are no second-class citizens in this country.”

Assistant Attorney General Kristin Heyse defended the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and adoption, saying this case is about the will of the people, the 2.7 million Michigan voters who defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

“They have decided that children should be raised by a mom and a dad. That decision must govern,” Heyse said.

Heyse said it was rational for the people of the state to define marriage that way because “that is the only union that can actually produce children.”

DeBoer and Rowse held a brief news conference Tuesday morning before the start of the trial at the federal courthouse on West Lafayette Boulevard downtown.

“We made this choice to fight the second-parent adoption ban and we are happy to be representing everybody in the marriage cases as well,” DeBoer said. “We love our children. This started out about our children, and this is still about our children.

“We want to be recognized like everybody else. Nothing says family like a marriage license that says that we are legally a family. That’s what we are hoping for. We think we are going to get it. We are very proud to be a part of history.”

DeBoer and Rowse have three special-needs adoptive children between them. The state’s adoption code does not allow same-sex couples to adopt each other’s children.

Dana Nessel, who also represents the couple, said the trial has been a long time coming, and she’s extremely optimistic that Michigan will join other states in recognizing gays and lesbians as equal citizens.

Meanwhile, a few dozen protesters on both sides of the issue, including Jesse Bacon of Roseville, held signs near the courthouse Tuesday.

Bacon had been out since 8 a.m. showing her support of striking down the same-sex marriage ban.

“It is not religious for me. It is political,” Bacon said. “The Constitution offers equal protection and rights to all U.S. citizens.”

Pastor Rex Evans of First Free Will Baptist Church in Ypsilanti supports upholding the same-sex marriage ban and said he was out Tuesday to exercise his freedom of speech, just as those who want to see it struck down.

“The people of the state spoke in 2004,” Evans said. “I am standing up for what God wants us to do.”

jchambers@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-2269

April DeBoer, left, and Jayne Rowse enter the Theodore Levin United States Courthouse on Tuesday to challenge same-sex adoption and gay marriage in Michigan. / Daniel Mears / The Detroit News
A group opposing same sex marriage marches in front of the federal ... (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)