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DeBoer and Rowse exchange vows in ‘historic’ wedding

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Southfield —The Michigan pair who helped change history for same-sex couples across the country legally wed Saturday in a ceremony attended by 250 excited guests that included U.S. Rep Debbie Dingell and celebrity attorney Gloria Allred.

Jayne Rowse, far left, and April DeBoer, right, show off their wedding certificate with Judge Bernard Friedman.

The highly anticipated nuptials of April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse took place at a local banquet hall that was kept private.

DeBoer wore a cream-colored wedding dress and Rowse, who wore a black tuxedo, walked down the aisle to late Beatle George Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun.” DeBoer was escorted by her father Ken DeBoer and the couple’s two young daughters. Rowse was escorted by the couple’s sons.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman officiated at the event. Friedman heard arguments on a lawsuit brought by the couple in their case against the state of Michigan to challenge the state’s adoption code which banned them from jointly adopting each other’s children.

Friedman said the women are committed not only to themselves but “to everything they do.”

He added “they always take the road that is best for everybody.”

Friedman reminded the women about the first time their attorneys first brought the lawsuit, in 2012, to him challenging the state’s adoption code that banned gay couples from jointly adopting. Friedman told them they would have to drop or expand the lawsuit and the women amended their lawsuit to also contest the state’s gay marriage ban, which was passed by voters in 2004.

“I’ll never forgot the look on both of your faces as well as your lawyers,” quipped Friedman.

“You made that commitment not only did you make that commitment. Your team made it with you but it was you that really had to make it,” said Friedman, “You did it.

Friedman told the crowd the couple is owed “a big debt of gratitude” for fighting for their constitutional rights in their lawsuit.

“Every citizen of the United States that appreciates what our forefathers have done in equal protection ...everyone of us owes you a big debt of gratitude,” said Friedman Saturday as the women stood before him to be legally married. The crowd rose and gave the couple a rousing standing ovation following Friedman’s words.

The women said their solemn vows with their children at their side.

DeBoer told Rowse “I love you with all my heart (and) I’m honored to be your legal wife. I’ve been your wife for many years.”

Rowse told DeBoer “I promise to love you forever. I can’t imagine my life without you or without our kids.”

The Hazel Park couple, both nurses, will take on the last name DeBoer-Rowse.

The couple’s four children then took vows where they adopted each woman as their “legal mommy.” DeBoer and Rowse said they will have file legal papers in Oakland County court to begin the process of being able to adopt each other’s children. Currently, April is the legal parent to the couple’s two daughters, who are 3 and 5. Rowse is the legal mother of the couple’s 6-year-old and 5-year-old sons.

Dingell, whose husband John was cared for by Rowse in past at Henry Ford Hospital, said “today is about two people who love each other. That’s what today is all about.”

The ceremony drew a diverse crowd of well-wishers.

Jayne Rowse, far left, and April DeBoer, right, show off their wedding certificate with Judge Bernard Friedman.

Allred, who was accompanied by Robin Tyler and Diane Olson who are California’s first legally married gay couple, said the wedding is historic and she would not have missedit. Allred represented Tyler and Olson when they challenged the California law which banned same-sex marriage.

“This wedding is so constitutionally historic,” said Tyler who added that the fight by the couple to give their children legal protection is significant for future same-sex couples who want to have children. “This day and wedding is so unbelievably historic.”

Allred said DeBoer and Rowse role models “for what parents should be” referring to the couple’s fight to be able to marry so they could jointly adopt.

“You have helped afford respect and dignity for so many people who have been persecuted and disrespected for so many years,” said Allred.

In March 2014, Freidman ruled the Michigan’s Marriage Amendment, which banned same-sex marriages, was unconstitutional. The judge’s ruling was appealed by the state and the matter was heard before the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals which upheld the gay marriage ban in Michigan along similar legislation in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee last November.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on the lawsuits in April and struck down the same-sex marriage ban in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee essentially making gay marriage legal across the country June 26.

The couple’s marriage license was witnessed by the five members of their legal team.

“We could not have done this without all five of them,” said DeBoer Saturday.

Dana Nessel, the co-counsel for DeBoer and Rowse, said she is happy the women and their children now have legal protection.

“Four years later and finally April and Jayne and their children will be a legal family,” said Nessel Saturday at the wedding. “(The wedding) is the culmination of everything we worked so hard for.”

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