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Michigan couple take gay marriage plea to high court

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Jayne Rowse, left, and April DeBoer will file a plea to be allowed to marry was being filed Monday. It asks the justices to hold that state laws prohibiting same-sex couples from getting married violate “our nation’s most cherished and essential guarantees.”

The Hazel Park same-sex couple who challenged Michigan's gay marriage ban asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to rule that the law violates the constitution.

In extensive legal pleadings, lawyers for April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse wrote, "this case presents the question of whether a state may constitutionally deny same-sex couples the right to marry the person of their choice."

Their pleadings ask the justices to hold that state laws prohibiting same-sex couples from getting married violate "our nation's most cherished and essential guarantees."

The couple, through their attorney, said they are ready for the legal challenge.

"When we first brought this case, we vowed to do anything we had to in order to protect our children and our family, even if that meant having to take our case all the way to the Supreme Court," said DeBoer. "That day is finally here, and we hope the court sees fit to accept our case and provide the same security to our family that other families count on."

"It's been incredible to see other loving couples marry in state after state," Rowse said. "It has been our dream, and remains our dream, for our family to make the same public commitment and share in the same protections and responsibilities here in our home state of Michigan that those families enjoy. We hope we can achieve that some day, if the Supreme Court is willing to hear us."

DeBoer and Rowse have three special needs adopted children between the two of them and want to co-adopt them, but Michigan adoption rules have not allowed them, as a lesbian couple, to do so.

Oak Park resident Krista Contreras, 31, who married her wife, Jami, 30, in Vermont two years ago is watching the case closely. The couple want to have their marriage recognized in Michigan, which would allow Jami to legally be the co-parent of the couple's infant daughter, who Krista gave birth to last month.

"I'm very excited," Krista Contreras said Monday. "Obviously, we were disappointed and shocked by the (U.S. 6th Circuit Court ruling). It was crappy that they ruled against it but in the long run by taking it to the Supreme Court, it will have benefits for the whole country."

In March, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman lifted Michigan's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.

Friedman's ruling was set aside by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals the next day, pending arguments by a three-judge panel on the issue. In August, a three-judge panel heard arguments in the DeBoer and Rowse case along with others from Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

On Nov. 6, the 6th Circuit Court upheld gay marriage bans in Michigan and the other states. The three-judge appellate panel split 2-1.

Lawrence Dubin, a professor at the University of Detroit Mercy Law School, said the 6th Circuit's DeBoer ruling is an attractive case for the justices to review.

"It is the only circuit that held that voters in a state can deny the right to marriage to same-sex couples. There also is a good record that was made at trial before Judge Friedman," Dubin said Monday. "It seems logical that the court will take this case now that there is a division among the federal circuit courts."

Michigan officials have said they would not oppose Supreme Court review but would vigorously defend a provision of the state constitution that prohibits same-sex marriage.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias said it's likely the nation's highest court will take Michigan's case for review.

"(Judge Friedman) got into facts and they had all these experts during the trial," Tobias said Monday. He added that Michigan's case could be the one that decides the gay marriage issue for the United States once and for all.

Tobias predicts the U.S. Supreme Court will reverse the appeals court's Nov. 6 ruling and allow Friedman's ruling to stand. Tobias points to the higher court's decision Oct. 6 not to review other circuit rulings, essentially allowing same-sex marriage in Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Utah.

On Friday, supplemental briefs were filed by the state in U.S. District Court in Detroit in a federal lawsuit seeking recognition of the 300 marriages of same-sex couples who obtained licenses the day after Friedman's historic ruling, during a brief window when gay marriage was legal in Michigan.

Supplemental briefs are due for the plaintiffs in that case Friday. The 300 couples are being represented by the ACLU of Michigan. Attorneys for the state of Michigan argue that the 6th Circuit Court decision makes the marriage licenses obtained in March null and void.

Same-sex marriage in legal in 33 states, the District of Columbia and some U.S. territories.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

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