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Mich. same-sex couple file brief in gay marriage case

Oralandar Brand-Williams

Detroit — Lawyers for two Hazel Park women who have challenged Michigan's gay marriage ban filed opening briefs Friday with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing the state law harms their children and is unconstitutional.

In just two months, the case of April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, two nurses who seek to marry each other, will take center stage before the highest court.

Detroit attorney Carole Stanyar, DeBoer's co-counsel, said Friday that Michigan's gay marriage ban harms the couple's children.

"The law is injurious to the children who are legal strangers to one of their mothers who has raised them from birth," Stanyar said during a teleconference that brought together attorneys from same-sex marriage cases in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Those states also have same-sex marriage cases that will be argued before the Supreme Court in late April.

In their pleadings, the attorneys argue that the families of same-sex couples like DeBoer and Rowse are harmed by Michigan's gay marriage ban.

"Their families — including their children — are deprived of the status, dignity, security, stability and myriad material and legal protections that marriage brings. This Court should hold that prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying violates our nation's most cherished and essential guarantees," reads the brief filed Friday.

The arguments will be held between April 27-29.

"Each day and each development brings us closer to knowing whether we will be able to marry and make our family as safe and secure as it can be," said DeBoer in a statement Friday. "We're both proud and humbled to be representing so many families who have the same hopes and dreams that we do."

In a response to the filing, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is defending the state's same-sex marriage ban, said he's pleased the High Court is taking up the issue.

"This case involves people of good will, sincerely motivated, on both sides. All of Michigan's voters, as well as the citizens of our great nation, will be well served by the court's decision to decide this case and resolve such an important issue," he said. "I am pleased that the Supreme Court has chosen to review this case, so that important issues involving the fundamental institution of marriage, our Constitution and the rights of voters will be decided."

DeBoer and Rowse's case started as a challenge to Michigan's adoption rules, which banned the women from adopting each other's special-needs children because they are lesbian and the state's adoption code does not allow co-adoption by gay and lesbian parents. They later amended their lawsuit to challenge Michigan's gay marriage ban.

Last March, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled after a nearly two-week trial that Michigan's gay marriage ban, approved by voters in 2004, is unconstitutional. Friedman's ruling was appealed by the state of Michigan. In November, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state ban in a ruling with cases from Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

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