Michigan pays nearly $2M in legal fees for same-sex marriage case

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Jayne Rowse (left) and April DeBoer marry in Southfield, Mich. (WDIV)

MICHIGAN — The state of Michigan has paid nearly $2 million in legal fees for the Hazel Park couple who were part of the landmark case that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Carole Stanyar, an attorney for April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, tells FOX 17 that she and attorney Dana Nessel billed the state almost $2 million in fees and have received the full amount.

The fees were for six lawyers, who each billed $350 an hour, according to court documents filed in July.

“This case was both rare and difficult because plaintiffs’ counsel were defending members of an historically unpopular minority,” Stanyar and 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.”

DeBoer and Rowse were married in August in Southfield.

The couple made history after winning the right to marry in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in June which ruled bans on gay marriage unconstitutional nationwide.  They sued the state in 2012 after they couldn’t jointly adopt each other’s children.

That case grew into a challenge to a Michigan constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Federal Judge Bernard Friedman, the same judge who struck down the state’s marriage ban in 2014, performed the ceremony.


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  • steve thomas

    Good God! Not only do we have to tolerate aberrant behavior. Now we have to pay outlandish attorney fees to defend it. Political correctness, liberalism and lawyers are destroying our country.

  • Kevin Rahe

    Every child deserves a mother and a father. It is a fallacy to suggest that the children being raised by these women now have a complete set of parents, despite the implications of the SCOTUS.

    • Kevin Rahe

      Do I have a “constitutional right” to start claiming that red traffic lights mean “go” just like green ones do? Because that’s about how much sense Obergefell makes.

        • Kevin Rahe

          Not exactly. I DISAGREE with decisions like Roe v. Wade. Obergefell, on the other hand, was simply ILLEGITIMATE, something the Court had no business deciding, one way or the other.

          • Kevin Rahe

            Actually, the Court DIDN’T decide when life begins. Roe essentially says that we DON’T know when life begins, which the Court then uses to excuse the remainder of its decision in that matter.

            And it is not merely MY opinion that Obergefell is illegitimate. It’s also essentially what all the DISSENTING JUSTICES said, which is unprecedented as SCOTUS decisions go.

          • Kevin Rahe

            Actually, MOST people probably feel that marriage means SOMETHING in particular, even if their definition conflicts with others’. In other words, nearly everyone has an opinion about what marriage is that is (at least since the end of June) not embodied by the law. The SCOTUS determined that all definitions of marriage are void so that some people could be treated “equally” (as opposed to FAIRLY or EQUITABLY). A significant number of Americans are simply willing to forego having the law embody their definition of marriage in exchange for making a certain minority feel better about themselves and their freely-chosen lifestyle.

          • Kevin Rahe

            The problem is that it leaves no justification in the law for many of the rights and privileges granted to married people, especially those that cost taxpayers money. When marriage was defined as a man and a woman, it was clear that those benefits were intended primarily for couples who raise children. With that logical basis now gone, it is only a matter of time before some or all of the benefits themselves get eliminated as well, which will hurt the families for whom they were originally intended. In other words, while the immediate effect of Obergefell is to dilute those benefits by expanding them to a group of people who typically do not need them, eventually it will lead to even greater poverty when they disappear altogether.

          • Reggie Funkpotato

            If that’s why you believe those laws were originally enacted- you can rest easy knowing that most married folks will still raise children.

          • Kevin Rahe

            If what I believe about the reasons for those benefits is right, then Obergefell is an injustice. If what I believe about them is wrong, then the benefits themselves are an injustice.

            If we let anyone at all receive food stamps, regardless of income or the means to buy their own food, you could also say, “you can rest easy knowing that most folks who receive food stamps will truly need them.” But that alone wouldn’t justify the decision to offer them to everyone or make it fair to do so.

          • Reggie Funkpotato

            But we don’t let anyone have food stamps and only married couples receive benefits of being married. Most married folks raise children (still!)

          • Kevin Rahe

            In the present age of no-fault divorce, pre-nuptial agreements and marriage meaning nothing as far as the law (and increasingly the bulk of society) is concerned, why would anyone remain unmarried who could possibly benefit from it in some way? These guys “married” just to get some rugby tickets: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2752926/Bromance-Two-men-got-married-NZ-outraged-gay-community-got-hitched-win-tickets-Rugby.html . Surely it will become popular to do just to get even greater benefits like health care insurance, lower income taxes, tax-free property transfers, etc. Perhaps even food stamps.

          • Reggie Funkpotato

            Meh… I’m sure a few people will take advantage just as they did already. That story could have easily involved a man and a woman. But for the bulk of us, marriage will not be entered into lightly.

          • Kevin Rahe

            Requiring it to be done with someone of the opposite sex who isn’t already married didn’t eliminate such shenanigans, but it at least greatly limited them. It’s much more wide open now. And even the restriction that you can only marry someone who isn’t already married to someone else isn’t likely to stand long now that the SCOTUS has signaled that it will make sweeping expansions to government benefits based on nothing but emotional appeals.

            I also think you underestimate the capacity for people to take advantage of a benefit that is presented to them for a different purpose if there’s nothing to stop them. For instance, when a friend of mine was in college, he rented an apartment with 3 other guys. Hot water was included in their rent, but they had to pay extra for heat. So being college students they rigged up a heat exchanger on the kitchen sink that would let them heat their apartment with hot water. With ingenuity like that, bennies for buddies just by getting “married” is a no-brainer.

            Even the typical OPPOSITE-sex couple enters into marriage (or not) much more lightly today than they did 50 years ago. Why would the trend not continue or even accelerate with the message Obergefell sends?

          • Reggie Funkpotato

            That’s a great story about your friends in college but I don’t think it proves that we’ll see a huge accelerated rate of fraudulent marriages. Most people want to marry the person they love. Your paranoid Fantasia of buddies getting hitched for tax purposes is silly.

          • Kevin Rahe

            No state requires a declaration of love or affection for the future spouse in order to obtain a marriage license.

          • Kevin Rahe

            So you admit, then, that states’ recognition and treatment of marriage never had anything to do with whether a couple could, should, would or wanted to love each other, and that the rights and benefits granted to married couples must therefore have had a more practical or pragmatic impetus?

          • Reggie Funkpotato

            No I am saying that people generally get married because they are in love and want to start a life together- not to check a box on their 1040. Sheesh.

          • Kevin Rahe

            As you’ve already agreed, the state is not interested in whether two people love each other. If it were, then it would make that a condition of obtaining a marriage license. What compelling reason then would there be for the government to care whether two people are in a relationship? The government is not sentimental.

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