Maeleigh Borders may only be 6-years-old, and yet already her short life has made a huge impact on countless lives and one law in Michigan.
On Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a set of bills which would reverse a 1956 law that had prevented her biological father, Daniel Quinn of Hartland, from claiming paternal rights.
With the signing of the bills, Quinn is now one step closer to being reunited with the daughter he hasn’t seen since 2008.
“It’s awesome,” Daniel Quinn said. “It’s been a long, long road and a pretty amazing group of people came together to make history. Today’s been a great day.”
In 2005, Maleigh was born to Quinn and his girlfriend, Candace Beckwith, and they raised her together for 2 1/2 years. Beckwith, however, eventually returned to her husband from whom she had been separated and left the state, taking Maeleigh with her. Beckwith’s husband was then granted paternity rights to Maeleigh under the 1956 law, which gives legal rights to the mother's husband, regardless of whether or not he is the biological father.
Quinn, who last saw his daughter in May of 2008 has been fighting a legal battle ever since to claim rights to his daughter. A paternity test proved with 99.9 percent accuracy that he was the biological father.
Blocked for years in the legal system, however, the biological proof wasn't enough -- until today.
With his parents and two of his siblings by his side in Lansing, Quinn witnessed Snyder sign the bills, which would help him continue his fight for Maeleigh and help him fulfill a promise he made to his little girl the day she was born: "Daddy will always protect you."
“The next step is, because of these laws which essentially knocked down a huge wall for me, it will now allow the judge to hear me and hear my daughter’s voice in the courtroom,” Quinn said.
Quinn now enters the next phase of his legal battles on an equal playing field and says that the support he has received from what he calls “Maeleigh’s Army” has been “astronomical” and crucial to the success of the paternity bills reaching this point.
“Every single major organization that deals with children has stood behind us every step of the way,” he said. “I couldn’t be more grateful. Maeleigh’s got a lot of people out there that love her and are waiting for her to come home, but right now I still have a job to do.”
Standing with her son, proudly carrying her bag with Maelaigh’s face across the front, Sharon Quinn said she was just relieved that no one would have to go through what her son did to gain his legal rights as a father.
“To know that every mother’s son has a say,” she said. “That should be such a great relief to mothers who have sons.”
Quinn stressed, however, that his fight wasn’t just for fathers, but families everywhere who this bill would help and the children who would be affected by it.
As for young Maeleigh, she may not know now how much her life has impacted those around her, but Sharon Quinn is confident that one day she will. And as a souvenir from the historic day, Daniel Quinn saved the pen that Snyder used to sign the bills into law.
“It’s Maeleigh’s—that goes to Maeleigh,” he said. “She’s going to have that for later on so she understands that ultimately, Maeleigh is the heroine in all this."