BY BTL STAFF
DETROIT – The state of Michigan are paying nearly $2 million to the lawyers who fought for marriage equality in the state.
Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette spent nearly three years arguing in favor of the same-sex marriage ban, facing off against a lesbian couple from Hazel Park who were seeking ways to extend the rights and protections from one parent to all of their children.
After a tireless fight that extended all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Schuette and Snyder lost the battle and are now forced to pay a total of $1.9 million to the legal team representing April and Jayne DeBoer-Rowse.
April and Jayne, who have been together for 15 years, finally wed in August following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June, striking down same-sex marriage bans and making marriage equality the law of the land. Together they have four children who will soon be legally adopted by both parents.
The couple filed for second-parent adoptions in 2012 and were turned away due to a line in Michigan law that banned same-sex marriage. Since any couple seeking a second-parent adoption has to be married in order for it to be granted, they were left with no other choice than to sue the state for the right to protect their children.
The couple was represented by Dana Nessel, Carole Stanyar, Ken Mogill and Bob Sedler in Michigan courts and by Mary Bonauto during the SCOTUS oral arguments. The legal team took the case pro-bono, knowing that the Hazel Park couple would not be able to afford the fees of an ongoing case that was heard in every level of the U.S. court system.
“Four years without a paycheck, fronting costs in a case of this magnitude, was certainly hard on our families,” Stanyar told the Detroit News on Wednesday, when she received the final payment. “The fee statute was enacted to empower and encourage the vindication of civil rights. I do feel empowered, and very encouraged. So I guess the law is working as Congress intended.”
The legal team filed 15 time sheets and affidavits with the motion, requesting compensation for 5,474 hours of work at a rate of $350 per hour based on attorney income summaries reported by the State Bar of Michigan.
Taxpayers also paid $96,000 to John Bursch, a lawyer hired by Schuette to defend the gay marriage ban. Conservative economists and social scientists hired by the state for the 2014 trial were paid $148,000.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, who suggested that the couple sue the state for the right to marry instead of the right to second-parent adopt and brought the case to trial, oversaw the hearing that was set for Oct. 7.