Same sex couple adoption is a much-talked about subject, but nurses’ case was born from caring, not controversy.
Imagine raising children as a loving couple, providing them with a safe and stable home and yet being unable to make legal decisions regarding their futures, including with whom they would live in the wake of an emergency and what medical care they would receive. In Michigan, unmarried couples are forbidden from jointly adopting children. Since same sex marriage is also forbidden, as pointed out on michiganmarraigechallenge.com, “children of gays and lesbians in Michigan are forbidden from having two legal parents.”
Michigan’s Adoption Code is now being challenged on the grounds that it is unconstitutional by Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer. The couple, who has been together for more than a decade. are raising three children together. As infants, the children were abandoned in the hospital where Rowse and DeBoer both work as nurses. Currently, DeBoer is the adoptive parent of two of the three children; Rowse is the adoptive parent of one. The couple, who are also licensed foster parents, want to jointly adopt their kids.
The pair never expected to be at the forefront of controversy. They certainly never intended to become spokespeople for same sex couple adoption or gay marriage. As DeBoer explained to The Detroit Free Press, “We decided to file this lawsuit after we had a close call with another car while we were on vacation in Ohio… If something happened to Jayne, I would be considered a legal stranger to my two sons. My heart breaks at the thought. I could have to go to probate court and try to prove my fitness as a parent to my own children…We can’t just simply make a will or execute guardianship documents either. The law is not that simple.”
“Like all parents,” DeBoer continued, “ I love my family more than anything, and Jayne and I want what all parents want: to make sure our children are safe and secure…We made the decision to challenge Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and second-parent [unmarried] adoptions because we wanted to better protect our family.”
Not all states forbid unmarried couples from adopting. In fact, unmarried.org reports that same states such as California, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont and the District of Columbia allow unmarried couples to adopt simultaneously, just as married couples do. Several other states allow a single parent adoption followed by a joint parent adoption. This protects the rights of both the unmarried parents, whether a same sex couple or traditional couple, and their children to make decisions as—and remain—a family.
When DeBoer and Rowe’s initial case was decided in March of 2014, Judge Friedman ruled that the Michigan Marriage Amendment violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. However, a stay was put on the ruling. Now Rowse and DeBoer’s case will be heard by a federal appeals court on Wednesday, August 6, 2014. Click to view the court documents so far.