April DeBoer and her partner Jayne Rowse have been together for eleven years, and have lived together for six. Rowse is the legal parent of 3-year-old N and 2-year-old J. DeBoer is the legal parent of 2-year-old R. Photo courtesy of family.

Michigan: County Clerk Moves Out of Way in Second Parent Adoption Case

by Crystal A. Proxmire

When a Hazel Park couple filed a case to force the Michigan and Oakland County to allow second parent adoptions in 2012, Attorney General Bill Schuette, Gov. Rick Snyder and former Oakland County Clerk Bill Bullard quickly filed motions to dismiss.

But now that Bullard is no longer in office, the new Oakland County Clerk, former State Representative Lisa Brown, will not be trying to stop the case from moving forward. According to The Oakland Press, "On Tuesday, Brown took her hat out of the ring, filing a motion that implied the county wants to let the case be heard in court, and will no longer be contesting it. The motion -- five lines long -- simply concluded with: "Accordingly, the Motion to Dismiss is hereby withdrawn."

April DeBoer, 41, and Jayne Rowse, 47, both work in the medical field, and they have opened their home to their three children. In January 2009, N. was born to a biological mother who was homeless and had psychological impairments. The mother surrendered her legal rights at the hospital and Rowse adopted him, even though both parents take equal pride in his upbringing. (See BTL's original story here)

In November 2009, J. was born premature at just 25 weeks. His mother was a drug-addicted sex worker, and the newborn tested positive for marijuana, cocaine, opiates and methadone. After four months in the hospital, J was sent to live with DeBoer and Rowse and the state approved them to be co-foster parents. When it came time to legally adopt him however, DeBoer had to give up her guardianship rights so that Rowse could become J's single legal parent.

R came along in February 2010, when a 19-year-old who had not received any prenatal care, gave birth at a friend's house and the baby was dropped off at Hutzel Hospital. DeBoer legally adopted R, and the couple has been working hard to help him overcome the delayed gross motor skills that are the result of his biological mother not receiving any medical care while she was pregnant.

Their lawsuit originally fought Michigan's second parent adoption law, but in Sept. 2012 it was amended, at the Judge's suggestion, to include challenging the ban on same-sex marriage as well. The complaint lists reasons why second parent adoption and marriage are important rights. "Plaintiffs are denied protections relating to the incapacitation or death of a spouse, support for family finances and other public and private safety nets and responsibilities attaching to marriage."

The suit lists reasons why denying marriage to couples is discriminatory and causes harm, including rights that come along with an estate, rights to spousal benefits like health care, life insurance, survivor benefits, filing jointly for tax benefits, hospital visitation and the right to make care decisions or burial plans. The suit purports that couples like DeBoer and Rowse are protected under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which "provides that no state shall deny any person the equal protection of the laws."

At a hearing on Sept. 5, 2012 Judge Friedman told the parties that the underlying issue is the state's ban on same-gender marriage, and he gave the couple an additional ten days to amend their complaint to address the issue.

"I was surprised when Judge Friedman brought it up," said Dana Nessel, attorney for DeBoer and Rowse said at the time. "Our case has always been about what is best for the children and their rights, and that has been at the forefront of our argument. But if we have a shot at it this way, how could we not?"

Brown's withdrawal of the motion to dismiss brings down at least one road block for the mothers. Brown could not be reached for comment.

A motion hearing in the case is set for March 7 and will be held at the Wayne State University Law School before Judge Bernard Friedman in a special location for student observation.

For more on the case, visit Nessel's website at http://nesselandkessellaw.com/deboer-rowse-fund/.

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