MI’s loss in gay marriage fight could cost taxpayers $2M

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April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse (WJBK)

DETROIT — Lawyers for the Michigan couple who fought and won to legalize same-sex marriage across the nation are now seeking nearly $2 million from the state in legal fees.

In a court documents filed Saturday, attorneys for the Detroit-area nurses, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, said the case was not only novel, but extremely complex.

The request includes fees for six lawyers, who each billed $350 an hour.

Those court records also describe what both the lawyers and clients in the case endured during the three-year long court battle. Both DeBoer and Rowse could not afford to pay their lawyers. One lawyer said she sold her home to keep the case moving forward.

“This case was both rare and difficult because plaintiffs’ counsel were defending members of an historically unpopular minority,” lawyers Carole Stanyar and Dana Nessel wrote in the federal court filings.

“Although public opinion has shifted considerably in the years that this case has been pending, when filed, a decided majority of the Michigan population were opposed to marriage by same-sex couples.”

In June, Michigan’s 2004 ban on gay marriage, along with bans in several other states were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, whose office served as the face of the opposition in the case, has yet to respond to the request.

Under federal law, the couple’s attorneys are entitled to payments from taxpayers.

Now, Bernard Friedman, a federal judge in Detroit, will determine what amount of money is reasonable for the legal team to be paid.

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  • John Smith

    Why should tax payers pay for a case some else cant afford. Doesnt matter the case at point. just why the hell should the state pay?

        • dimensio0

          The District of Columbia was obligated to pay attorney feels to the plaintiffs following a Supreme Court ruling that the District’s prohibition upon civilian handgun ownership violated the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.

          Did you find that requirement to be objectionable?

      • SAM

        or the first amendment for that matter…
        and lets not forget the vote. the people of Michigan said “no”, what happened to that law?

    • tnts

      I agree. The taxpayers should NOT have to pay for this just because they couldn’t afford it. No one forced them to sell their house or whatever else they did. Thwt was their choice. And btw Joshua, I am NOT a Repub. nor am I or John in any way stupid for having an opinion.

    • taxpayer in Michigan

      Taxpayers have to pay because taxpayers created the state constitutional amendment that violated the national Constitution, according to the Supreme Court. We could have avoided footing this bill by not creating this ban and then not fighting it all the way up, but that’s what we wanted to do and we lost.

      • Don Boyd

        No the Vote that was on the ballet decided if Michigan would have same sex marriage, the vote was driven by politicians. After the vote was over turned Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuetteote decided his office would appeal. At the time polls showed most of Michigan’s population did not want to fight the law. Schutteote has cost this state millions in his personal belief court filings. Send him the bill. Remember hes going after the pot law In Grand Rapids next so save a envelope for the next bill.

        • Kevin Rahe

          Actually, the last poll taken before Obergefell was decided show a significant shift the other way in Michigan, to the point that it was almost a draw.

    • Keenan Wilkie

      Typically, a government that is served as a defendant in a lawsuit over a Constitutional matter, is obligated to cover legal fees to the plaintiffs should the plaintiffs be victorious.

      This was the for the District of Columbia following the verdict of District of Columbia v. Heller. As I recall, many civilian disarmament advocates objected to that mandated payout also.

    • dimensio0

      Typically, when a government is sued over a Constitutional matter and the courts rule in favor of the plaintiff, the government is obligated to pay the legal costs for the lawsuit, based upon the concept that burdening the plaintiffs with the cost of overturning an Unconstitutional law is unjust.

    • Bish Chan

      Some states have laws which require the state to pay the legal costs of the plaintiffs if they win in civil rights cases. I suppose the rationale is to encourage people to report and challenge governmental checks on freedom.

      Taxpayers also routinely pay for legal aid for people who cannot afford counsel as well.

    • dimensio0

      The “old law” was ruled Unconstitutional. Typically, when a law is ruled Unconstitutional, the government is obligated to cover the costs incurred by challengers to the law.

  • John C

    Usually when a person (the state in this case) has been sued chances are the the other could be ordered to pay legal fees. If our useless Attorney General hadn’t been such an arrogant jerk and ended this when everyone was pretty sure the outcome would go against the state the bill wouldn’t have been so high! Maybe they can sell that new office building that they paid way to much money for to help cover the bill.

    • Bish Chan

      The plaintiffs could not pay and in the absence of the state paying… i think a crowdfunding appeal would manage to raise at least some of the cost. But if you want to change the law that says the state pays you will likely need to challenge the law like this couple. You will likely not win and have to pay your own legal fees however.

  • Richard

    Why are my tax dollars being applied to this? I am so disappointed with our Congress and Senate they are not doing their jobs!

  • Jered Michael

    They were denied their 14th amendment rights by the state (us) therefore we were wrong and should foot the bill they incurred for having to fight for what should have been theirs all along.

  • Wayne

    It should be remembered that the Michigan case differed from other states’ cases. The case resulted in a full blown trial with witnesses testifying for both sides, which required an enormous amount of preparation and skill, especially when it came to destroying the Fraud, Regnerus, who published the bogus anti-gay “study”. Cases in other states were resolved on a Motion for Summary Judgment with briefs on the law rather than addressing factual matter.