BY AJ TRAGER
FERNDALE – The legal team for the DeBoer-Rowse family has begun training and preparing for their upcoming trial and needs financial support. April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are plaintiffs in the Michigan same-sex marriage case that will soon be presented before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) along with cases from Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. SCOTUS will hear testimony beginning in April, but until then the legal team needs upwards of 1 million dollars to attend mock trials and file legal documents to the court.
The Michigan Marriage Challenge changed its name directly following the announcement that SCOTUS would be hearing the Michigan marriage case and is now known as the National Marriage Challenge (NMC).
The NMC is the sole entity authorized by the DeBoer-Rowse family to fundraise exclusively for the DeBoer case in SCOTUS, with 100 percent of funds raised supporting the DeBoer lawsuit. The legal team representing the DeBoer family has been working entirely pro bono and has enlisted the aide of constitutional law experts to shepherd the case through the proceedings in the Supreme Court. This expertise comes at a high price.
NMC currently has about $47,000 in its bank account, much of which is owed to past expenses. A team of about 14 people, calling themselves “The Hobos For A Cause,” has joined forces with NMC to help raise money and awareness of their cause.
“When the 6th Circuit ruled, we got so upset. I went up to the (NMC) table and said, ‘What can we do to help?’ So we’ve been involved for a few months now, and we are working our tails off,” Kim Gillen, correspondent for the Hobos, said.
The Hobos are all members of the LGBT community and have been friends for years. There are some peripheral members that help organize events and want to show their support for the DeBoer legal team.
“People don’t realize that this is going to affect the nation,” Gillen said. “This ruling (by SCOTUS) will either make marriage for everyone or, if they rule against us, will make marriage for 11 states and those will only be the states that voted it in by the people or voted it in by legislature. So anybody else, any court rulings, would lose marriage equality — Massachusetts included.”
During the busiest weekend in December, the group held a successful fundraiser at the Charles T. Fisher Mansion. She and her team planned the event in 13 days and were able to get an attendance of 72 people and a total of 42 silent auction items; all proceeds donated to the NMC. “This is the most incredible team of people that I’ve had the pleasure of working with,” Gillen said.
They are planning a black tie event for the month of March. The group is shooting for a thousand attendees, said Gillen, but a lot has to be done; the DeBoer legal team needs much more funding.
“This is a lot bigger than people realize,” Gillen said. “We need the community’s support to pay for Dana (Nessel, lawyer for the case) and the legal team to have mock trials so that they are prepared. All of the planning, the practice, getting the best lawyers there are and the best experts — it is expensive. And just a reminder: these attorneys have been working for nothing.”