The new film Accidental Activists shares Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer’s brave struggle to adopt their children and disband Michigan’s constitutional amendment that prohibited same-sex marriage.
Detroit Free Press photojournalist Mandi Wright followed the couple for five years, documenting their struggle and case all the way to the United States Supreme Court in 2015.
"I had no idea when this started where it was going to end up. Nobody did, of course," Wright told Detroit Free Press. "Honestly, I never thought I'd see the day where gay people could get legally married all across the U.S."
Both nurses, the couple has four adopted children. Because of Michigan’s ban, however, Rowse adopted two children while DeBoer adopted the other two.
“There was nothing they (Rowse and DeBoer) could do to ensure that if one of them died, the other parent would get custody of the two children adopted by the deceased partner,” NPR reported. “They could put their wishes on paper, but that paper would have little legal status.”
In November 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit overturned lower court rulings that struck down Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee bans on marriage equality. The decision created a circuit court split and the case headed to the Supreme Court. On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff couples, making marriage equality the law of the land.
"I really hope that people see the joyous wonderful family they are, and that they deserve what they got," Wright told Detroit Free Press. "I learned that justice can prevail. The system worked for them. It was an amazing thing to watch."
The film premiered at the Freep Film Festival earlier this year.
HRC, in partnership with Reel Affirmations, will host an exclusive screening of the film on Tuesday, June 21, at our offices in Washington, D.C. Click here to learn more and to RSVP.