Cooley professors file amicus brief in Michigan Marriage Equality case

Eight Thomas M. Cooley Law School professors recently filed a joint amicus brief in the marriage equality case DeBoer v. Snyder, which challenges the legality of both the 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Michigan and the Michigan Adoption Code. An amicus brief, or “friend of the court” brief, makes arguments and provides information that might be helpful to the court.

“This amendment not only bans same-sex marriage, it also harms the families of same-sex couples, depriving them of the protections of Michigan law,” said Dan Ray, professor of constitutional law at Cooley and one of the amicus brief authors. “Same sex couples don’t enjoy many of the things that other Michigan couples take for granted, like health care benefits or other spousal benefits. At its core, the amendment is discriminatory and does not reflect the kinds of values the people of Michigan put in our constitution.”

The plaintiffs, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, are in a long-term, committed relationship, and would marry if they were allowed to by Michigan law. The couple originally filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to challenge the Michigan Adoption Code, which prevents them from jointly adopting the three children they have adopted separately.

Michigan adoption law allows married couples and individuals to adopt, but non-married couples cannot jointly adopt a child. Since same-sex couples cannot legally marry in Michigan, they cannot
legally adopt together. Recognizing this, Judge Bernard Friedman allowed the plaintiffs to amend their suit to include a challenge to Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban.

“The United States Supreme Court has ruled several times, most recently this past June, that discrimination against gays and lesbians just because of their sexual orientation is unconstitutional,” said Ray. “The amendment does just that – it singles out gays and lesbians because of their sexual orientation – and refuses to recognize their committed relationships for any purpose. Michigan punishes an entire class of people who have done nothing wrong. The United States Constitution doesn’t allow Michigan to do that.”

Besides Ray other co-authors of the brief include Cooley Professors Brendan Beery, Alan Gershel, Gina Torielli, Frank Aiello, Emily Horvath, Karen Chadwick and Marjorie Gell.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled in front of Judge Friedman on October 1, 2013.