DETROIT (CN) – Two nurses who are raising three babies with special needs sued Gov. Richard Snyder, challenging a state law that prohibits unmarried couples from adopting children.
In their federal complaint, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse describe themselves as domestic partners in a stable, long-term relationship, who would marry if Michigan allowed it.
DeBoer is a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Hutzel Hospital in Detroit. Rowse is an emergency room nurse at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
They own a home together and are raising three small children who come from troubled backgrounds. One child was abandoned by her homeless mother; one was born prematurely to a drug-addicted prostitute, according to the complaint.
The children are identified only as R, N and J in the complaint.
DeBoer is the adoptive parent of one child; Rowse is the adoptive parent of two children.
The complaint states: “R was born on February 1, 2010, and was brought to Hutzel Hospital as a newborn. R’s biological mother was 19 years old, she did not receive prenatal care, and she had given birth at her mother’s home. R was legally adopted by DeBoer, as a single person, in April of 2011, in Wayne County Circuit Court. R continues to experience issues related to her lack of prenatal care, including delayed gross motor skills. She is in a physical therapy program to address these problems.
“N was born on January 25, 2009 to a biological mother who was homeless, had psychological impairments, was unable to care for N and subsequently surrendered her legal rights to N. N’s biological father was not identified on the birth certificate and was otherwise not involved in his life. DeBoer and Rowse volunteered to care for him, and brought him home following his birth. Thereafter, in November of 2009, N was legally adopted by Rowse, as a single person, in Wayne County Circuit Court.
“J was born on November 9, 2009, at Hutzel Hospital, premature at 25 weeks, to a drug-addicted prostitute. Upon birth, he weighed 1 pound, 9 ounces and tested positive for marijuana, cocaine, opiates and methadone. His birth mother abandoned him immediately after delivery. J remained at the hospital in the NICU for four months with a myriad of different health complications, and was not expected to live. If he survived, he was not expected to be able to walk, speak or function on a normal level in any capacity. J’s foster care agency requested that DeBoer and Rowse take him home, and both DeBoer and Rowse were certified by the State as foster parents and legal guardians for J. Thereafter, Rowse adopted J as a single person in Wayne County Circuit Court. J is in intensive occupational and physical therapy. With Rowse and DeBoer’s constant care and medical attention, many of J’s physical conditions have resolved.”
According to the complaint, Under Michigan law, “(a) married couples can adopt a child, (b) a single person can adopt a child, and (c) an unmarried couple cannot adopt a child. As a result of this law, and as a result of defendants’ execution and defense of that law and advice to state judges and other officials that Michigan law prohibits second parent adoptions, any attempt at securing a second parent adoption of the minor plaintiffs would be futile under Michigan law, MCL 710.24.”
The nurses say that undisputed sociological and psychological evidence shows that unmarried couples, straight or gay, are no less loving, caring and effective parents than those who are married.
They say that Michigan law that prohibits second-parent adoptions by unmarried people “serves no legitimate government interest.”
The complaint continues: “The undisputed sociological and psychological
evidence demonstrates that there are some significant sociological and psychological benefits for children having two parents rather than one. Moreover, the undisputed sociological and psychological evidence demonstrates that unmarried persons, straight, gay or lesbian, are no less loving, caring and effective parents than those parents who are married to each other. In addition, there are very significant legal benefits for children having two legal parents rather than one: (a) the legal right to have a parent automatically in the event of the death of the other parent, (b) the right to dependency benefits under laws and other contractual arrangements providing for dependency benefits, such as Social Security, workers compensation, pensions, insurance and tort law, and (c) the right to have at least one parent able and available to make decisions in the event the other parent is incapacitated or is unavailable.”
The nurses add: “Rowse and DeBoer enjoy a close and loving relationship with each other, and they have created a stable, loving household for these three children. They share finances, they make decisions jointly regarding their own lives and the lives of their children, they both cook and care for the children, they both attend to the childrens’ medical needs and both are involved in taking the children to their many doctor and therapy visits, and they coordinate their work schedules so that at least one parent is generally home with the children. Prior to the adoption of the children, the couple expressed their vows at a commitment ceremony in February 2007 which was attended by both of their families and friends. They each enjoy a close relationship with their respective family of origin, they were and are supported by their families in their decision to adopt the children, and they are supported by their families when needed in caring for the children. DeBoer and Rowse enjoy an extremely high functioning, low-conflict, domestic relationship despite the enormous challenges involved in raising three young, special needs children.”
They seek declaratory relief and want Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette enjoined from interfering with their attempt to secure second-parent adoptions.
They are represented by Dana Nessel, of Detroit, and Carole Stanyar, of Plymouth, Mich.