Michigan same-sex marriage challenge began as an adoption case

Rowse and DeBoer

Jayne Rowse, left, and April DeBoer, right, with their adopted children Jacob, 5, from left, Nolan, 6, Ryanne, 6, and Rylee, 2, at their home in Hazel Park, Mich., Sunday, April 12, 2015. DeBoer and Rowse initially went to court to win the right to jointly adopt each other’s children, not to confront Michigan’s ban on gay marriage. Each woman has adopted two kids, but they can’t jointly adopt them because joint adoption in Michigan is tied to marriage. Paul Sancya, AP

Rowse and DeBoerPaul Sancya, AP

Jayne Rowse, left, and April DeBoer, right, with their adopted children Jacob, 5, from left, Nolan, 6, Ryanne, 6, and Rylee, 2, at their home in Hazel Park, Mich., Sunday, April 12, 2015. DeBoer and Rowse initially went to court to win the right to jointly adopt each other’s children, not to confront Michigan’s ban on gay marriage. Each woman has adopted two kids, but they can’t jointly adopt them because joint adoption in Michigan is tied to marriage.

This article is one in a series showcasing the families who are plaintiffs in the marriage equality cases that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on April 28. Read more here.


DETROIT — April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse initially went to court to win the right to jointly adopt each other’s children, not to confront Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Three years later, the Detroit-area nurses sometimes can’t buy groceries without supporters recognizing them and giving a hug.

“We’re kind of in shock and awe of where we’ve gotten to,” DeBoer said. “There are days we question: How did we get here? We’ve been stopped multiple times at our local shopping center with people just telling their story. These are people’s lives that we’ve changed.”

DeBoer, 44, and Rowse, 50, live in Hazel Park, Michigan, with four adopted children, ages 2 to 6, and a foster child. Each woman has adopted two kids, but they can’t jointly adopt them because Michigan ties that to marriage.

They challenged the state’s same-sex marriage prohibition at the suggestion of a judge who eventually struck down the voter-approved ban.

“We decided that not doing anything would do more harm to our children than standing up and saying we’re going to fight,” DeBoer said.

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DeBoer is a part-time neonatal nurse and Rowse works full time as an emergency room nurse. They hope to adopt another child soon.

“These young children usually have medical needs,” DeBoer said. “We have training. We have room. We have the love.”

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