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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Schuette, DeBoer and Rowse to cooperate in getting same-sex marriage case before SCOTUS

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DeBoer Rowse Adoption Legal Fund

Attorney General Bill Schuette and the couple trying to overturn Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage are on opposite sides of the case. But they’ve agreed they will cooperate in trying to get the case on the U.S. Supreme Court docket during the current session.

The state won the most recent legal round, but Schuette says he won’t oppose a motion to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court. Both sides have agreed they’re going to beat filing deadlines so the court can decide soon whether to hear the case next year.

Schuette’s office issued this written statement: “We have spoken with attorneys for the plaintiffs …, and shared that we support a swift appeal to the United States Supreme Court.  The Department of Attorney General will also work swiftly so that the nation’s highest court can take it up as quickly as possible.  As I have said from the beginning, the sooner the U.S. Supreme Court rules, the better, for Michigan and for the nation.”

The attorney general promised his office would not use many standardly used legal mechanisms that could delay a decision by the nation’s highest court to take the case.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse sued to overturn the ban so they can get married and jointly adopt the special needs children they’re raising together. On Thursday, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against them when it upheld marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

But that decision also caused a rift between the Sixth Circuit and other federal appeals courts that have struck down marriage bans as unconstitutional. Schuette’s agreement with the DeBoer and Rowse legal team makes it more likely the case will be heard next year, if the Supreme Court chooses to take it.

“What it means is that everyone’s looking for uniformity in the law,” says Dana Nessel, an attorney for DeBoer and Rowse. “You know, everyone looks to the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter of the law for the entire United States … And so, instead of having this piecemeal system, where it’s decided on a state-by-state basis, that we have uniformity in the law all across the nation, and, for advocates of equality like myself, it means that we will hopefully have a ruling that will allow marriage equality in all 50 states.” 

Governor Rick Snyder says he agrees that the U.S. Supreme Court should rule quickly on same-sex marriage.

About 300 Michigan couples got married the day after a lower court overturned the state’s ban. Snyder says the marriages were performed legally. But he says the state can’t recognize the marriages while the case is still moving through the courts.

“Having questions over legal issue like this, it’s better to get certainty and finality to it.”

The governor has declined to say whether he personally supports or opposes the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

(Jake Neher contributed to this report)