As news that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage swept across the U.S. Friday morning, supporters rallied in both downtown Ann Arbor and Washington D.C. in celebration of this historic decision.
The Jim Toy Community Center, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer residents of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and the greater Washtenaw County area, hosted a “Day of Decision Rally” so supporters could gather in response to the Court’s decision.
After quieting the crowd, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, one couple represented in the string of cases considered by the Court, offered remarks under rainbow colored streamers during the press conference portion of the event. DeBoer thanked her lawyers for their determination and hard work.
In January 2012, Michigan residents April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, challenging Michigan’s ban on adoption by same-sex couples.
DeBoer and Rowse separately adopted one son and two daughters, respectively, but were unable to jointly adopt their children because Michigan law did not recognize same-sex marriages, and only granted joint parent adoption rights to married couples.
“It’s been a long, long, hard road,” Deboer said. “It’s been four and a half years in the making… We would not be here if it weren’t for many people, and first and foremost our attorneys: Dana Nessel and Ken Mogill, Bob Sedler and Carole Stanyar. So I want to thank you guys as well. My last comment is to my beautiful children: We did this for you,” DeBoer said.
Carole Stanyar, one of the attorneys for DeBoer and Rowse, also spoke at the press conference, praising her team and clients for their hard work and resilience. She expressed pride in the accomplishments of her case.
“This was a definitive statement under equal protection, fundamental right, liberty, due process,” Stanyar said. “It was for now, and it’s for future generations. The bans are unconstitutional. States cannot treat people this way. They cannot treat people unequally. Same-sex couples, their families, their children, have to be treated with dignity and respect,” Stanyar said.
In an interview with the press, Attorney General Bill Schuette said throughout litigations, his main argument challenged who would decide if same-sex marriage should be recognized in different states.
“We argued this case is a question of who decides: the voters across the United States of America, or the Justices of the Supreme Court,” he said. “It was about voters and who decides, that was what the case was about.”
Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor also offered remarks during the celebration. In an interview with the Daily, Taylor was enthusiastic about this progressive milestone in Michigan’s history.
“I could not be more excited for the people of Ann Arbor and for all Americans. This is a day when the Supreme Court has redeemed the American promise of equality before the law. It has ratified that gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people are fully and finally embraced into the American family. It’s just — it’s wonderful,” Taylor said.
Beth Sherman, assistant professor of social work at the University and her wife, Karen Hawver, owner of Precision Accounting in Ann Arbor, attended the celebration and press conference at Braun Court with their two children.
Sherman and Hawver were one of the 300 couples married in Michigan in March 2014 after a U.S. federal judge struck down s the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Both were excited that the Supreme Court’s decision would further legitimize their marriage.
“We’ve been together for 21 years and we have two kids, and now it just means eventually we’ll be able to both be their legal parents. We were able to marry the one day in Michigan, but now it just means our marriage will be recognized, so it’s good for us and for our children.”
University alum Alanna Maguire, a project manager of the National Marriage Challenge, a non-profit committed to legalizing same-sex marriage in the U.S., said she was proud of her team. She also said she was proud of her fiancé Dana Nessel, also a University alum and an attorney for the April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse case. She said she was also excited that she and Nessel could now obtain a marriage license themselves.
“I can get married in my home state. Dana Nessel and I are both from Michigan. We’re both University of Michigan graduates. We love our state. We just wanted to make it better, and I’m so, so proud of Dana particularly today. She carried this case from start to finish,” said Maguire.
Brad O’Connor, president of the Jim Toy Community Center, expressed enthusiasm for his own marriage, which was officiated in Illinois, to be officially recognized in his home state of Michigan.
“It means that…my family, that was only recognized in two-thirds of the country, is now recognized nationwide. I can go to Texas or I can go to Louisiana and Maine and California and have my marriage valid there,” said O’Connor.
However, although O’Connor reserved today for celebration, he added that the Supreme Court’s decision resolves only one aspect of the LGBTQ community’s current struggle for equality in the U.S.
“This is just something that we check off the list. There’s so much more left to do with regards to bullying in high schools, transgender rights — that’s huge— making sure that we’re protected at work, because we could be fired, still, for being gay. The fight’s not over. It’s just the battle’s won. It’s a big battle, but this battle’s won, and now it’s time to move on and keep fighting,” O’Connor said.
Aside from granting same-sex couples the right to marriage, the Supreme Court’s decision could have further legal stipulations on health and work benefits.
University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said the University will review the Court’s ruling and adjust benefits for same-sex couples in both a legal and timely fashion.
“We realize that some members of our community will be anxious to change their benefit enrollment status and we will study the ruling carefully to ensure that we offer new eligibility in a manner that is legal and timely,” Fitzgerald said.
In an interview with the Daily, University law professor Julian Mortenson said the Court’s decision could have an impact on health benefits the University offers.
“For every category as to which marriage triggers rights and responsibilities, like benefits, access, permissions to health care facilities, etc., same-sex marriage couples will have exactly the same rights as opposite-sex couples,” he said.
The Supreme Court’s ruling was thorough enough to address any other potential issues, he added, saying it was clear in its decision.
“There were more complicated scenarios that could possibly have emerged from this opinion before it was released, but as it turns out, the Supreme Court has written a decision that is very straightforward and is very emphatic,” he said.
Sen. Gary Peters (Mich.) lauded April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse in a statement for their courage in taking their case to the Supreme Court.
“With this decision, thousands of Michigan same-sex couples will finally be afforded the same opportunity to marry as other Americans, including April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse of Michigan, who courageously took their case all the way to the United States Supreme Court,” Peters said.
Summer Managing News Editor Alyssa Brandon contributed to this article.