Same-sex marriage pioneers, kids cheer joint adoption

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — It’s official. After 15 years of frustration and more than six years of courtroom battles, April DeBoer-Rowse and Jayne DeBoer-Rowse and their children are now legally a family.

The Hazel Park couple finalized the joint adoption of five children Thursday in Oakland County Circuit Court, four months after winning the right to marry and parent each other’s children.

The hearing before Judge Karen McDonald concluded years of challenges to state and national laws that barred same-sex marriage and joint adoption by such couples.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet — we’re just ready to be a family and get on with life,” said 44-year-old April DeBoer-Rowse as she and Jayne DeBoer-Rowse, 51, squeezed past a crowd of friends, supporters, and news media all gathered to observe the event.

The couple appeared before McDonald with Nolan, 6, Jacob, 5, Ryanne, 5, Rylee, 3, and 1-year-old Kennedy.

The ceremony itself was relatively brief, only about 15 minutes. But it was emotional, with both women visibly moved and choking back tears. Before it began, they thanked McDonald for accommodating the large crowd and adoption in her courtroom

“I’m honored to do it,” McDonald said, smiling “What a long road. Let’s get started.”

Under questioning, both women said they understood and were ready to meet all duties for the children’s welfare and upbringing.

The kids seemed to enjoy all the attention but appeared more interested in two decorated white-frosted cakes sitting on a courtroom table, just waiting to be devoured in celebration of their day.

The couple, both registered nurses with foster children, made international news when they took their battle to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned Michigan’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriage in late June.

The couple and others in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee brought the lawsuit that resulted in the civil rights milestone.

April DeBoer-Rowse and Jayne DeBoer-Rowse became concerned for the future of their three foster children after a 2012 car crash caused them to worry what might happen should either of them die.

They subsequently sued the state because its law against same-sex marriage barred them from jointly adopting their children.

“This was not a matter of gay marriage or straight marriage but just marriage,” Jayne DeBoer-Rowse said.

She said the biggest adjustment she has had to make is signing a hyphenated name for her and the children.

While both women said they realize the importance of what they have done, they look forward to shedding the limelight and “just getting on with everyday life.”

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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