Michigan Marriage Challenge 2013

April DeBoer, Jayne Rowse and their supporters worked to overturn Michigan’s Marriage Amendment.
This was their website, created to get out the word about their case and ask for financial help via fundraising or by donation.
Content is from the site's archived pages, as well as from other sources.
FYI: April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse won the fight for marriage equality at the Supreme Court, but other battles remain.


Jump ahead to 2021. With the Supreme Court now dominated by conservative judges and with the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett in the Fall of 2020, the LGBTQ advocates are fearful the Supreme Court may roll back protections. Barrett’s refusal to say Obergefell was correctly decided frustrated Senate Democrats and alarmed LGBTQ activists, who worry about her elevation to a Supreme Court that has only three justices remaining from the five-member majority in the 2015 decision. My mother and I were recently discussing the newest member to the Supreme Court via Facetime. With the Covid 19 pandemic still not under control and the vaccines just beginning to be rolled out, the assisted living residence where my mother lives still has restrictions in place regarding in person visits. Hart Heritage Estates, here in Forest Hills Maryland has already vaccinated all its staff and residents, but until the pandemic is under control, my mother and I Facetime almost every day.

During the Senate hearings Judge Amy Coney Barrett twice used the term sexual preferences to describe those in the LGBTQ community which I, like many other people found to be not only offensive, but also outdated term. I applauded Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, who really hit Judge Amy Coney Barrett with some withering remarks.

On November 4, 2020 the Supreme Court heard a case that could allow private agencies that receive taxpayer-funding to provide government services — such as foster care providers, food banks, homeless shelters, and more, to deny services to people who are LGBTQ, Jewish, Muslim, or Mormon. The case has not yet been decided. As a gay woman who fosters young children, I am following this case, as well as any other cases before the Supreme Court that would impact the LGBTQ community. Many expect Barrett to favor an "expansive view" of the free exercise of religion and to favor overturning lower court rulings that sided with the city of Philadelphia, which terminated its contract with Christian Social Services for foster care services after it refused to work with same-sex prospective parent. As you can see, my mother and I don't just discuss the weather and how she is feeling. Fortunately she is very happy at the Harford County facility with its 6.5 acres of park-like grounds and wonderful staff. I feel fortunate she is there and being taken well care of.


CIRCA 2013

Marriage Matters to April and Jayne
Please Spread the Word

The trial concluded on Friday, March 7. On March 21, Judge Friedman ruled that there is no rational basis for the Michigan Marriage Amendment and that it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.

We expect an appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and ultimately, the case may be decided in the United States Supreme Court. The time expected for the appeal could range from six months to two years.



About April and Jayne

halloween 2013

April and Jayne have been in a committed relationship for over a decade, and together are raising three special-needs children. DeBoer, a neo-natal intensive care nurse, and Rowse, an emergency room nurse, became licensed as a couple to be foster parents. Within a year and a half, they welcomed three newborns who had been abandoned or surrendered at birth. The children faced long-term physical and mental impairments due to prematurity, little or no prenatal care, maternal drug use, and other complications.

April and Jayne love their children as deeply as any other parent loves their kids, and want their children to have the same protections all other children have, including knowing they can never be taken from their family and each other.

DeBoer and Rowse’s desire to jointly adopt all three children would establish each parent’s legal claim and relationship to their children. Currently one has adopted two of the children and the other has adopted one. Unfortunately the Michigan Adoption Code prohibits joint adoption for their kids and thousands of other children in households like theirs across the state, violating their right to Equal Protection under the United States Constitution. The law is discriminatory, irrational, and only has the effect of hurting children and destabilizing families.

In addition to the impact on committed couples, in effect, the children of gays and lesbians in Michigan are forbidden from having two parents. Michigan is one of only a handful of states left in the country that allows no mechanism for the legal recognition of two parents of the same sex, meaning that whether same-sex couples adopt or one of the partners conceives a child biologically, only one partner can ever have a legally recognized relationship with that child.






With the proper presentation, the opportunity to prevail and win a ruling in favor of April and Jayne is extremely likely. The trial is scheduled to begin on February 25, 2014

April, Jayne, and their supporters are working to overturn Michigan’s Marriage Amendment, approved by voters in 2004, which prohibits gays and lesbians from a legal marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships, as well as alter Michigan’s adoption code that currently denies rights and benefits to the children of gay/lesbian couples.

Judge Friedman has ordered that the case go to trial. The trial is scheduled to begin on February 25, 2014, and will be similar to the trial conducted in opposition to the Proposition 8 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage held in California. The primary issue in dispute is whether gay and lesbian couples are competent and qualified to parent children, and whether or not the state of Michigan is justified in prohibiting same-sex couples from adopting, marrying, and forming legal families.

An extensive number of witnesses are expected to testify on behalf of the plaintiffs, including sociologists, psychologists, child welfare workers, adult children raised by same-sex couples, and a myriad of other witnesses who will testify that gays and lesbians are no less loving or nurturing than their heterosexual counterparts, and that their children are just as well adjusted as those raised by opposite-sex couples.

The cost of such a trial is certain to be monumental. To date,  April and Jayne have not received  financial assistance from any LGBT or civil rights organizations, and their attorneys have worked pro bono on this matter for nearly 3 years. As nurses raising 3 special needs children, the expense of pursuing litigation of this magnitude is extraordinary.

With the proper presentation, the opportunity to prevail and win a ruling in favor of April and Jayne is extremely likely. Such a ruling will mean that all same-sex couples in Michigan will have the opportunity to marry and adopt children. This case presents the best, easiest, and earliest opportunity for marriage equality in Michigan. Further, it is likely that this case will ultimately be the precedent setting case that moves on to the United States Supreme Court in order to make marriage equality the law of the land for all 50 states.

Although the initial complaint filed on behalf of April, Jayne, and their children against the State of Michigan in January of 2012 intended to secure these rights, at the behest of Judge Friedman, the pleadings were amended to challenge the same-sex marriage ban, significantly expanding the scope of the case. As one of the most draconian bans in the nation, the amendment effectively prohibits any type of legal recognition or benefits for same-sex couples in Michigan

Ironically, the State of Michigan found these women capable enough to put their blood, sweat, and tears into raising these children together as foster parents. To now deny them the opportunity to both become legal parents to the children they love, and who are the only parents they have ever known, is totally irrational, and serves no legitimate purpose.

Please help April and Jayne pursue this case as long as they are able.



Michigan Marriage Challenge 2013 Go Fund Me / April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse



April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are fighting for their family in the state of Michigan, which has some of the nation's most stringent and regressive laws and policies in the country in regards to the LGBT community and their children. The case has moved through the federal district and appeals courts, and the attorneys for the case are in the process of applying for review by the US Supreme Court.

April and Jayne are a lesbian couple who have been in a committed domestic partnership for over a decade. They live in south-eastern Michigan. April is a neo-natal intensive care nurse, and Jayne is an emergency room nurse. They are also licensed foster parents. Together, April and Jayne have taken in three special needs newborns who were abandoned at birth by their mothers. The babies were born premature, drug-addicted, and with a host of long-term physical and mental impairments.

DeBoer and Rowse's desire to jointly adopt all three children would establish each parent's legal claim and relationship to their children. Currently one has adopted two of the children and the other has adopted one. Unfortunately the Michigan Adoption Code prohibits joint adoption for their kids and thousands of other children in households like theirs across the state, violating their right to Equal Protection under the United States Constitution. The law is discriminatory, irrational, and only has the effect of hurting children and destabilizing families.

April, Jayne, their attorneys and supporters are working to overturn Michigan's Marriage Amendment, approved by voters in 2004, which prohibits gays and lesbians from a legal marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships, as well as alter Michigan's adoption code that currently denies rights and benefits to the children of gay/lesbian couples.

The initial complaint was filed on behalf of April, Jayne, and their children against the State of Michigan in January of 2012. The case of Deboer v. Snyder was decided by Judge Bernard Friedman in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on March 21, 2014. Judge Friedman ruled that there is no rational basis for the Michigan Marriage Amendment and that it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.

The state of Michigan appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and arguments for both sides were presented on August 6, 2014. The Sixth Circuit Court issued a ruling on November 6, 2014 upholding the Michigan Marriage Amendment. The attorneys for the DeBoer case announced a decision to appeal to the US Supreme Court on the same day.

Please help April and Jayne pursue this case. So far their legal team has been representing them for free, but legal cases like this get very expensive and include fees for expert witnesses, court costs, etc. This puts a huge burden on the April & Jayne, and the attorneys who need to earn a living, pay their bills and take care of their own families and children. These attorneys have worked tirelessly and selflessly to fight for April and Jayne, and ultimately the rights for all LGBT citizens, unmarried heterosexual couples wishing to co-adopt in Michigan, and the children deserving of two loving, legally recognized parents.

Please donate whatever you can. Even just $10 - $20 will help keep this legal challenge moving forward! They are preparing to take this to the U.S. Supreme Court. Let's keep the positive momentum going!! Please forward this campaign to as many people as you know. If you can't afford to donate now you can still help by spreading the word. With everyone's help we CAN achieve equality and justice!





SCOTUS Will Hear Marriage Case Filed by Michigan Nurses April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse

January 16, 2015 / www.glad.org

Washington, D.C., January 16, 2015 – The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to review a federal appeals court decision upholding Michigan’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. By granting the petition filed by Michigan couple April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, the Court will be considering Michigan’s ban on marriage as well as those in the other states still denying marriage licenses to gay couples. Today’s move means the high Court will rule on the issue of marriage equality by the end of June 2015. The court has also agreed to hear cases from Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Friends who supported each other through nursing school and now a committed couple for more than 10 years, DeBoer and Rowse are both hospital nurses and the parents of four special-needs children whom they fostered and then adopted. They originally challenged Michigan’s adoption code so that they could adopt their children jointly rather than as “single” individuals, and provide them the security of having two legal parents. They later challenged the state’s marriage ban since it keeps April and Jayne, as well as the children, from being legally recognized as a family and from the protections other families enjoy. They argue that state laws banning marriage equality violate the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.

“We are now that much closer to being fully recognized as a family, and we are thrilled,” said DeBoer. “This opportunity for our case to be heard by the Supreme Court gives us and families like ours so much reason to be hopeful.”

The DeBoer-Rowse family is represented by Michigan attorneys Carole M. Stanyar; Dana Nessel of Nessel and Kessel Law; Kenneth Mogill of Mogill, Posner & Cohen; Wayne State University Law Professor Robert Sedler; and Mary Bonauto of the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

“By choosing to hear the DeBoer case, the Court now has the opportunity to end the injustices facing gay families in Michigan and so many other states, and to ensure that same-sex couples nationwide are free to move for work, school, or to care for elderly parents without jeopardizing their family’s security,” said Nessel.

“Our families, communities and the schools all see us as a family, said Rowse. “We juggle our jobs and a houseful of children and wouldn’t have it any other way. Soon, we hope to have the same recognition and share the same protections and responsibilities as all other families.”

DeBoer et al v. Snyder was the only case to go to trial among dozens decided or pending nationwide since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor v. United States in June 2013.  In a nine-day trial in February and March of 2014, Michigan District Court Judge Bernard A. Freidman heard expert testimony from the nation’s leading psychologists, sociologists, child welfare professionals, and historians. In a ruling on March 21, Judge Freidman struck down Michigan’s ban on marriages and “any similar union,” concluding the state “may no longer impair the rights of their children and the thousands of others now being raised by same-sex couples” and “the guarantee of equal protection must prevail.” The state immediately filed an appeal, but in the interim, hundreds of couples in Michigan were legally married.

Multiple other court rulings since Windsor have established marriage equality as the governing law. In October 2014, the Supreme Court declined to review rulings by the Fourth, Seventh and Tenth Circuits that all found state marriage bans unconstitutional.

On November 6, 2014, two judges of the three-member panel in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Friedman’s decision and those of courts in Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky. Within weeks, attorneys for DeBoer and Rowse filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court.

“Families like April and Jayne’s have been deprived of the status, dignity, security, and stability that marriage brings for far too long,” said Stanyar. “This Court should hold that prohibiting same-sex couples from joining in marriage violates our nation’s most cherished and essential guarantees.”

Bonauto reflected on the long struggle for marriage equality in the United States, asserting “In the 10-plus years since same-sex couples started marrying in Massachusetts, thousands more have been able to marry across the United States, bringing them happiness and security — and harming no one,” said Bonauto. “It is time to end the legal bans that single out same-sex couples for disrespect and instead allow them to make this unique promise to one another and provide greater protection and security for their families.”

To download the original petition filed in the Supreme Court please visit http://nationalmarriagechallenge.com/the-case/court-docs/

About National Marriage Challenge

National Marriage Challenge, formerly Michigan Marriage Challenge, is a non-profit organization run by local Michigan residents committed to marriage equality in Michigan and across the country. National Marriage Challenge is an accredited 501(c)(3) formed for the purpose of supporting the DeBoer-Rowse Family in their legal effort. 100% of contributions to National Marriage Challenge go towards litigation and education expenses on DeBoer v Snyder.  For more information about the case, or to contribute, please visit www.NationalMarriageChallenge.com.

About Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders

Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation.  GLAD’s litigation in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health (2003) made Massachusetts the first U.S. state in which same-sex couples could legally marry.




One Couple’s Unanticipated Journey to Center of Landmark Gay Rights Case

By JULIE BOSMAN /JAN. 24, 2015 / NYTimes

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

April DeBoer, right, with her partner, Jayne Rowse. They are challenging Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage. Credit Paul Sancya/Associated Press

HAZEL PARK, Mich. — On a snowy night in 2011, April DeBoer, Jayne Rowse and their three children were driving in their minivan down a rural road when a truck, attempting to pass another vehicle, came barreling toward them.

“At the last second, he swerved off the road and veered into a field,” Ms. DeBoer recalled. “I don’t think Jayne and I would have survived the impact. It was that moment, that realization, that we needed to get things in order.”

They figured they could draw up wills and assign custody of their children during a quick meeting with a lawyer. Instead, they are headed to the United States Supreme Court.

After talking to a lawyer in Detroit, Ms. Rowse and Ms. DeBoer were stunned to discover that, as a gay couple living in Michigan, they were unprotected under the law: Michigan does not allow two unmarried people to jointly adopt a child, so their children were technically adopted by a single parent, either Ms. Rowse, 50, or Ms. DeBoer, 43. Each parent legally had no claim to the children her partner had legally adopted.

If either parent died, they realized, the survivor would not just face the devastation of losing a loved one. A judge could easily order any child adopted by a deceased parent to live with a distant relative or in foster care. The survivor would face the disintegration of the couple’s family.

“It was scary,” Ms. DeBoer said. “All along we thought we could protect our children, and we couldn’t.”

On Jan. 16, the Supreme Court agreed to hear their federal lawsuit challenging Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage, as well as cases brought by couples in Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky. The court is expected to decide by June whether all 50 states must allow gays and lesbians to marry.

Its ruling will come on the heels of Supreme Court victories for supporters of same-sex marriage. Last fall, the court let stand appeals court rulings that allowed same-sex unions in five states, and in 2013, a landmark decision on same-sex marriage, United States v. Windsor, struck down a section of the Defense of Marriage Act that banned federal benefits for same-sex couples who were married in states that allowed the unions.

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Supporters of same-sex marriage marching near opponents in front of the federal courthouse in Detroit last year. The Supreme Court is expected to decide by June whether all 50 states must allow gays and lesbians to marry. Credit Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Days after they received word that the Supreme Court would hear their case, they were still marveling at the twists and turns that had gotten them there.

The couple met in 1999 through mutual friends. Ms. DeBoer had just endured a bruising divorce — asked how many years she was married, she said, “Too many years” — and had not come out to her family and friends. Ms. Rowse and Ms. DeBoer began attending nursing school around the same time, encouraging each other through the grueling work, and dating off and on.

After they finally became a couple, they celebrated their union in 2008 with a commitment ceremony attended by some 30 relatives and friends. And they tentatively spoke of their wishes to be parents. “We talked more about starting a family and having kids,” Ms. DeBoer said, “with the possibility of maybe someday we’d be able to get married.”

They first tried to conceive naturally, with the help of a sperm donor, and it worked: Ms. DeBoer became pregnant with triplets. But joy turned to despair when she had a miscarriage, losing all three babies in the first trimester.

After that, they moved to adoption. “It was too much,” Ms. DeBoer said. “I couldn’t go through the physical or emotional stuff again.”

They have adopted four children. On paper, Ms. Rowse adopted Nolan, 6, and Jacob, 5; Rylee, 2, and Ryanne, 4, legally belong to Ms. DeBoer. Two of the children have developmental disabilities and require special care.

One morning last week, their sunny living room was packed with the furniture of family life. A portable crib was set up near the fireplace, picture books were scattered on the floor and a dog snoozed in the corner.

Until a few years ago, the couple were too busy managing their lives and their children to get too involved in the debate in the United States over gay rights.

“We belonged to one gay and lesbian parent group,” Ms. Rowse said as Rylee wriggled onto her lap. “That’s it.”

Joshua Lott for The New York Times

Ms. DeBoer, left, and her partner, Ms. Rowse,  with their 2-year-old daughter, Rylee, at home in Hazel Park, Mich. Guardianship of their four children was at the core of their decision to challenge Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage. Credit Joshua Lott for The New York Times

Their close call with the truck that day in 2011 led them to a lawyer, Dana Nessel, who advised them that she could draw up guardianship papers, but that they would be nearly worthless legally. She urged them instead to file a federal lawsuit challenging the adoption law in Michigan. When Ms. Nessel, a co-counsel for the family, went to gay rights groups asking for their support, they all declined, telling her that she would lose the case.

“None of the organizations were interested in doing challenges of this sort,” Ms. Nessel said. “But I thought their story was so compelling. And I thought the adoption code was appalling and needed to be rectified.”

Undeterred, they filed a lawsuit and went before a United States District Court judge, Bernard A. Friedman, a Reagan nominee who in 2001 had ruled that the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action policies were unconstitutional.

In Judge Friedman’s courtroom that day in 2012, he suggested that Ms. DeBoer and Ms. Rowse radically change course. Amend your claim to take on Michigan’s law banning same-sex marriage, he said, referring to the measure that voters approved in 2004.

“We felt the judge’s implication was clear — either amend the proceedings to challenge the marriage ban, or the entire case could be dismissed,” Ms. Nessel said, recalling her shock. “April and Jayne, as much as they wanted to get married and adopt their kids, never set out to challenge the marriage ban.”

After a two-week trial last March, Judge Friedman ruled in their favor, setting off a brief window of time when more than 300 gay and lesbian couples were married in Michigan.

Ms. Rowse and Ms. DeBoer were not among them. They wanted to wait until the law was perfectly clear and every same-sex couple in Michigan had the right to be married. (The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit overturned Judge Friedman’s ruling in November, halting same-sex marriages in Michigan and three other states.)

Lawyers for the state are expected to argue that decisions on same-sex marriages are best left to the popular vote and that children benefit from having parents in heterosexual relationships. But if the Supreme Court rules in Ms. Rowse and Ms. DeBoer’s favor, their wedding day may come soon.

They are nervously awaiting their trip to Washington — their first visit to the nation’s capital.

“I think that’s just going to be overwhelming, seeing the justices,” Ms. Rowse said. “We’re optimistic and hopeful that they’re going to be on the right side of history.”



April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse Wedding 8-22-2015

The historic wedding ceremony of April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse​, the Michigan lesbian couple at the center of the Supreme Court case that won marriage equality throughout the United States. The couple married at Pi Banquet Hall in Southfield, MI on 8-22-2015. They will henceforth be known as April DeBoer-Rowse and Jayne DeBoer-Rowse. Officiating was District Judge Bernard A. Friedman, who ruled on 3-21-2014 in favor of the couple's challenge to the Michigan Marriage Ban following a 2-week Detroit trial in Michigan's DeBoer v. Snyder case. The couple's five attorneys signed the marriage license: Carole Stanyar, Dana Nessel, Ken Mogill, Bob Sedler and Mary Bonauto. District Judge Judith Levy oversaw the signing.

The couple's four adopted children, Ryanne, Nolan, Jacob, and Rylee said vows of their own. As per the couple's request of reporters and social media postings to not publish any photos or name of child #5 currently in the process of adoption,

The service was by moments touching and funny. My favorite humorous moments included Jacob yawning after Friedman mentions "debt of gratitude", Jayne responding "You're welcome." after April thanks her for dragging her before Supreme Court, vows interrupted for Jacob's potty break, Rylee's insistence on carrying Jayne's prior day birthday balloon rather than flowers, Judge Friedman adlibbing about April's father and former marine as the "potty captain" with the rings, and Rylee trying to say "to be my legal mommy" in her vows.

Thank you April and Jayne for fighting to protect your family and in the process changing the lives of millions of Americans for the better. The Michigan case was consolidated with cases from three other states as Obergefell v. Hodges. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-26-2015 that state laws banning same-sex couples from legally marrying or refusing to recognize such marriages performed elsewhere are unconstitutional. We all owe April and Jayne a huge debt of gratitude.