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Federal Judge Encourages Michigan Couple to Challenge State Ban on Marriage Equality

District Court Judge Bernard Friedman, a George W. Bush appointee, invites a gay couple whose adoption suit he is hearing to amend their lawsuit to challenge Michigan’s constitutional ban on marriages for gay and lesbian couples.  Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer had been before the court seeking to adopt their three children as a couple, since Michigan law only allows each child to be adopted by one of the women.

The state of Michigan had pushed to dismiss the case, arguing that that the couple was “trying to do an end run around the state constitution” and that they were only “speculating” that adopting their children as a couple would provide a more beneficial situation for their family than adopting under the law’s current restrictions.  The couple’s lawyer, Robert Sedler, argued that Michigan law allows the two women to each adopt children separately, and that current law discriminates against children growing up in same-sex families.

Judge Friedman tells both sides that he didn’t want to “push [the couple] into something they don’t want to do,” giving them 10 days to decide to amend their complaint.  If they decline to do so, he says, he will rule on Michigan’s motion to dismiss.

Michigan affords gay and lesbian individuals some of the fewest rights and protections of any state in the union.  The state allows gay and lesbian couples no legal recognition for their relationships (a constitutional amendment prohibiting both marriages and civil unions for gay and lesbian couples passed in 2004), and is one of only three states that has explicit prohibitions against allowing gay couples to adopt.  In addition, Michigan has no protections for hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity, nor any employment protections outside of the state government.

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