June 19, 2013

Gay rights attorneys, plaintiffs and constitutional law expert slate press briefing for day of Supreme Court same-sex marriage decisions

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule June 24 on two major same-sex marriage cases, and Wayne State University Law School’s Distinguished Professor of Law Robert Sedler, a world-renowned expert on constitutional law, will be on hand at noon — if the ruling is made that day — for a press briefing to comment on the issues. The briefing will take place in the atrium of the Law School’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights.

Also on hand for comment will be the attorneys for April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse of Hazel Park, a lesbian couple hoping to overturn the state of Michigan’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.  The couple, both nurses who work in Detroit, also may be at the briefing. The women seek the right to marry legally so they can have joint custody of their three adopted children, and the SCOTUS decision could have a major impact on their case.

“Michigan law allows a single person to adopt, but not an unmarried couple, so these children are limited to one parent,” Sedler said. “Two wonderful lawyers, Dana Nessel, a 1994 Wayne Law graduate, and Carole Stanyar, undertook to represent April and Jayne without a fee in a federal court suit challenging the ban on adoption by an unmarried couple. I have been consulting with them at length, joined by Kenneth Mogill, an adjunct professor at the Law School.”

The DeBoer case is in U.S. District Court before Judge Bernard Freidman, who suggested early in the proceedings that the women expand their case to challenge the same-sex marriage ban. 

“We amended the complaint to do so,” Sedler said.

Friedman heard arguments in the case in March at the Law School —an event that drew dozens of reporters — and delayed decision until the Supreme Court decides its same-sex marriage cases.

Sedler said that he is always reluctant to speculate on the outcome of Supreme Court cases, and that in any event, it is unnecessary, because the court will issue its ruling soon enough. He said there are three possible outcomes.

* If the Supreme Court merely affirms or reverses the two same-sex cases before it, “the outcome would not control the result in the DeBoer case, but, depending on the rationale of the decisions, they might provide guidance for the Michigan case.”

*It is also possible, but less likely, that the court would render a sweeping decision, holding that the Constitution protects the right to same-sex marriage and thus rendering unconstitutional bans on same sex marriage that exist in Michigan and many other states.

*The least likely result, said Sedler, is that the court would reject the constitutional claim in its entirety and deny any constitutional protection to same-sex marriage.

To reach Sedler for comment, contact Brianna Fritz at Brianna.fritz@wayne.edu or 1-313-577-2733.

Photo caption: Plaintiffs April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse (at right) are rushed by journalists as they leave Partrich Auditorium at Wayne State University Law School, where arguments on their case were heard by U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman in March. Photo by Millard Berry.


Brianna Ellison
Phone: 313-577-0717
Email: Brianna.ellison@wayne.edu

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