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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Move Michigan Forward- Part Four: Adoption and LGBT Families

English: Logo of Equality Michigan
English: Logo of Equality Michigan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

IU News & Talk Exclusive
By Head Columnist Joel M.

Michigan could take a giant step forward for civil rights this Wednesday.

A federal judge in Detroit will be ruling in the case of two Michiganders who have sued the state for joint custody of their three adopted children. April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse of Metro Detroit originally filed the lawsuit simply hoping to obtain joint custody of their children.
In March, however, Judge Friedman delayed the case in deference to the Supreme Court to wait and see how they would treat the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). When DOMA was struck down, Friedman encouraged the Michigan couple to modify their case to also challenge Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage since the two are closely linked.

Regardless of Judge Friedman’s ruling later this week, the shift in focus has doubtless minimized DeBoer and Rowse’s primary concern: their children. In an interview with Michigan Radio, DeBoer explained the situation. “When you start talking about the marriage amendment, it’s more about our relationship and what we want, and that gets a little bit scarier because people are a little more opinionated about a marriage, a gay marriage, than they are about children having two parents.”

A Gallup poll from late November of 2012 shows that American’s favorability towards marriage equality – 53 percent in favor – does indeed trail our favorability towards gay adoption by a significant margin with 61 percent in favor of the latter. The latest polling data in Michigan shows that 57 percent of Michiganders support gay marriage.

Being able to marry could also greatly benefit LGBT couples financially. According to a 2007 report cited by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, LGBT families have a median income that is 25 percent below that of heterosexual couples with children, women and people of color being the most vulnerable.

In September of this year, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette sparked controversy when he claimed that gay marriage should not be legalized because marriage is the government’s way of regulating procreation.
“In seeking to foster the optimal setting in which to raise children, it is rational to define marriage based on the relationship – one man and one woman – out of which children are ordinarily born. In traditional marriage, there is then both a mother and a father to serve as role models for the children, and the potential for the children to be the offspring of the married couple. Every child has a mother and a father.”
Attorney General Schuette is acting as the defendant in the case on behalf of the State of Michigan.

Dana Nessel, attorney for DeBoer and Rowse, describes herself as “confident” that the court will rule in favor of her clients.
“The mood in the State of Michigan is that people are unanimously agreeing that these laws are irrational. Laws that hurt children without having any benefit to any of our citizens are on their face irrational and violative of the Constitution.”

In anticipation of Wednesday’s ruling, county clerks and clergy alike are preparing for the possibility of wedding bells. According to a USA Today story that ran on Oct. 14, at least 44 clergy will be on-call in the event that gay marriage is ruled unconstitutional by Judge Friedman.

Equality Michigan, one of Michigan’s leading LGBT rights organizations, has compiled an online database showing which counties will waive the standard two-day waiting period for gay couples wishing to marry should Friedman overrule the state’s ban.

As of midnight on October 15, a total of seven Michigan county clerks have openly stated that they will issue marriage licenses without the standard two-day waiting period if the circuit court in Detroit indeed overturns the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Those counties are as follows: Bay, Clare, Ingham, Midland, Oakland, Tuscola and Washtenaw.

Several other counties, though not openly affirming that they will issue marriage licenses without a waiting period, did underscore their willingness to comply in such an event that gay marriage is legalized.

The Ottawa County clerk seemed to go a step further, hinting that they may issue licenses on an immediate basis:
 “Ottawa County will follow the law. We have been working with the State to complete a new marriage license and application form and we should be ready to go once the State gives the OK.”
If Michigan legalizes gay adoption, we would become the 24th state in the nation to do so and the fifth in the Midwest after Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.

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