PONTIAC, Michigan — Two Detroit-area nurses jointly adopted five children on Thursday, closing a case that started when they challenged Michigan's restrictions on adoption and helped pave the way for the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage.
"What a long road," Oakland County Circuit Judge Karen McDonald acknowledged before granting the adoptions during a brief ceremony in Pontiac.
Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer are raising the children, who range from 18 months to 6 years, at their Hazel Park home.
Rowse had adopted the boys, Nolan and Jacob, and DeBoer was the adoptive mother of the girls, Ryanne and Rylee. That all changed Thursday, when the women jointly adopted all four kids and added Kennedy, a toddler who had been their foster daughter.
Asked afterward what she was feeling, DeBoer said: "Just a lot of joy. It's finally over, and we're finally a legal, protected family."
They sued the state in 2012, initially challenging Michigan's restrictions on joint adoption and later the ban on gay marriage at the suggestion of the judge in the case.
Federal Judge Bernard Friedman overturned the state's gay marriage ban in 2014. At the beginning of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the Michigan couple's case, among others, and in June the high court said same-sex couples have a right to marry. Rowse and DeBoer married nearly two months later.
"We've made changes throughout the United States and we're very proud of that, but I think our proudest moment is this one right here," DeBoer said Thursday.
The happy family posed for photos with McDonald, scarfed down some celebratory cake and exchanged hugs with loved ones who attended the hearing.
As for their future, DeBoer said she and Rowse were looking forward to "going back to life, getting off the radar.
"We're ready just to be a family and raise our kids."