Detroit-area nurses who led gay marriage challenge will appeal to Supreme Court

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FERNDALE, Michigan — Two Detroit-area nurses who challenged Michigan's ban on gay marriage said Thursday they'll next go to the U.S. Supreme Court after an appeals court upheld that law along with bans in three other states.

"Onward and upward. We're ready to go," attorney Carole Stanyar told The Associated Press moments after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld anti-gay marriage laws in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. The panel broke ranks with other courts that have considered the issue, setting up the possibility of Supreme Court review.

Stanyar, attorney for April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, said the legal team had been drafting a possible appeal for the high court long before Thursday. The nurses sued to change the Michigan law that bars them from jointly adopting their three children. The case was expanded to include gay marriage.

"We are going to continue the fight. We're going to fight for the rights of our children," DeBoer told a few dozen supporters at a Ferndale community center.

Michigan voters in 2004 said marriage was solely for a man and woman, but U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman declared that constitutional amendment illegal in March. More than 300 same-sex couples in four counties wed the next day before the appeals court suspended the decision and blocked additional marriages.

Separately, the American Civil Liberties Union is involved in a different lawsuit to force the state to recognize the marriages that did happen. The federal government has been recognizing those marriages for tax purposes and other benefits, but the state, under Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, declined.

Snyder said he respects the appeals court's decision and that his obligation "to support and defend our state constitution" has no exceptions.

Frank Colasonti Jr. of Oakland County, who married James Ryder in March, attended the summer arguments at the appeals court. He said he believed the result would be a 2-1 decision against gay marriage, based on the demeanor of the judges, especially Jeffrey Sutton, who wrote the 2-1 opinion.

"He just seemed to be struggling with his words, with his thoughts, with his ideas," said Colasonti, a retired school administrator. "In my opinion, he would have preferred not to make any opinion."

The court said states have the right to set rules for marriage and any changes are better done through the Legislature or voting booth, not the court system.

Attorney General Bill Schuette, whose office defended the state ban in court, said he welcomes an appeal to the Supreme Court.

"The sooner they rule, the better, for Michigan and the country," Schuette said.

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