DETROIT — Same-sex marriage supporters on Tuesday pounced on their opportunity to demonstrate their desire to see it come to Michigan as around 60 people gathered at a rally outside the Detroit federal courthouse before arguments in a marriage lawsuit.
Waiving rainbow flags and signs expressing their solidarity, supporters gathered in the parking lot before the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse. The lesbian plaintiff couple in the lawsuit, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, was among those who addressed the crowd.
Rowze, who filed her lawsuit with DeBoer in late 2012, said she never envisioned she would be leading the way for marriage equality in Michigan when she was growing up on a farm in Indiana.
“If you would have told me when I was 18 years old and living in Indiana on a farm that I was going to be up here talking about gay marriage, I would have told you, you lost your mind,” Rowze said. “Also, I would have said you had lost your mind if I was living in Michigan.”
Rowze said that her loves DeBoer “with all my heart” and the three kids they are trying to adopt as part of the lawsuit “are the most important things to us, and they always will be the most important things to us.” After closing her remarks by thanking rally attendees, Rowze shouted out, “Go Tigers!” in anticipation of the Detroit Tigers game later that day.
DeBoer stood up on next on the small stool that speakers were using to address the crowd, saying as she climbed aboard in her pumps, “OK, so I might be the next one to fall off this.”
Thanking the crowd for attending, DeBoer said the couple would have liked to take their kids to their rally, but couldn’t because “they’d have taken all the camera equipment and tried to taking pictures.”
“They know that they’ve had their pictures quite a few times in the last couple of days, but they don’t know the impact of this, and they won’t for quite a few years,” DeBoer said. “I’m kind of happy that they don’t know right at this time what’s going on. I’m happy that they don’t know that they don’t have the same rights as all the other kids they’re going to school with.”
Signs held up by rally attendees demonstrated support for marriage equality and criticized those who were defending the marriage ban. One male attendee held up a sign directed toward Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, which read, “Gov. Snyder… Tear Down This Law!… Marriage Equality for MI.”
Same-sex marriage opponents were represented by one person pacing back and forth the entrance of the courthouse with a sign that read, “WARNING! GOD draws a line on GAY MARRIAGE. Read Romans 1:24-32. WOE to those who cross it!”
Dana Nessel, one the four attorneys representing the plaintiffs, took note of the protester after thanking the marriage-equality supportive attendees for coming to the rally.
“Thanks to that one random lady across the street, the protester, because what’s a gay rights rally without at least one protester,” Nessel said, eliciting laughter from attendees.
Those gathering at the rally were hoping U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman would have ruled in favor of marriage equality from the bench immediate following oral arguments in response to the request for summary judgment in the case. Instead, Friedman decided to bring to a trial starting Feb. 25 and asked both sides to prepare a witness list of experts in 30 days time.
Prior to the hearing, DeBoer told the Washington Blade the anticipation was “nerve-wracking” as he hoped Friedman would “do the right thing” and issue a ruling in favor of marriage equality.
Even if the judge had ruled for marriage equality, Rowze said they wouldn’t have immediately wed because she wants to wait in the likely event the case is appealed to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“That means anything that’s been will be pretty much put on hold,” Rowze said. “It could be two or three years before this actually works out, that we’re recognized as legally married or not, and in the interim, our kids still aren’t protected, there’s nothing that’s going to change because they’re still going to stay you’re marriage is on hold until we figure this out.”
After DeBoer told the Blade she’d hold off on applying for a marriage license, a female bystander at rally declared, “It doesn’t matter; they’re already married.”
Following the hearing, neither DeBoer nor Rowze made an appearance to speak publicly. Representing their viewpoint was Nessel, who relayed to the media her clients feelings about the decision to go to trial.
“Obviously, we were all hoping for an immediate ruling today,” Nessel said. “I think it would have been nice for them, I think it would have been nice for all the LGBT couples in the state, but they understand it’s very a long process. It’s not as quick as some would like, it’s not as quick I would like, but we will eventually prevail in this case.”