A federal judge may rule as soon as Wednesday on the legality of a gay marriage ban that Michigan voters placed in their state constitution nine years ago.
April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, a lesbian couple from suburban Detroit, are challenging the state ban on same-sex marriage and a law that prevents single people from jointly adopting children in Michigan.
DeBoer has adopted a girl and Rowse two boys, and the couple has lived together for more than six years. Seen by the state as single people living together, however, they are not allowed to adopt each other's children jointly.
A married heterosexual couple would be allowed to jointly adopt each others' children under state law. DeBoer and Rowse have told the court they would marry if the ban were lifted.
They first challenged Michigan's adoption law in 2012 in federal court in Detroit and later expanded the lawsuit to contest the marriage ban. U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman in July ruled that they were entitled to their day in court.
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex nuptials. Thirty-five states ban same-sex marriage by statute, through constitutional amendments defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, or both.
Gay couples in several states have brought legal challenges since the U.S. Supreme Court in June threw out a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred same-sex couples from federal marriage benefits.
Friedman had delayed ruling on the Michigan constitutional ban until after the U.S. Supreme Court's June ruling.
Lawyers for DeBoer and Rowse have argued that the couple can execute no legal documents that would convey to each other rights that approach protections afforded to married couples.
"As a matter of law, there cannot be 'separate but equal' based on sexual orientation; as a matter of fact, there is no such thing," they have said in court papers.
In opposing the challenge, the state said in court papers that DeBoer and Rowse had not established a constitutional violation and that the people of Michigan should be allowed to decide how they define marriage and who should be allowed to adopt.
The case is April DeBoer, et al v. Richard Snyder, et al, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, No. 12-10285.
Reporting by Steve Neavling and Joseph Lichterman; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Karen Brooks and Lisa Von Ahn
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