Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Michigan.
Part 1: 2003-JUN to 2013-JUN: Recent activity
and current status.
Public opinion polls.
2003-JUN to 2013-JUN: Same-sex behavior, relationships, and marriage:
- 2003-JUN: Decriminalization of same-sex behavior:
Prior to 2003, same-gender sexual behavior was a criminal offense in Michigan. The activity became legal as a result of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas. That ruling decriminalized such behavior in Texas, Michigan, and 11 other states. This behavior had previously been decriminalized individually by the remaining 37 states and the District of Columbia.
- 2004-NOV: Constitutional Amendment:
Proposal 04-2, a stealth amendment to the state constitution, was passed by voters in 2004-NOV. It was promoted as an amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage in Michigan. In reality, it banned same-sex marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships, and any other formal recognition of loving, committed same-sex couples. It states:
"To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.
Because of this amendment, loving, committed same-sex couples are recognized by the government as mere roommates. They and their children lack the state's set of protections and benefits enjoyed by every married opposite-sex couple in Michigan.
The year 2000 census showed that at least 22,000 same-sex couples lived in Michigan of which 18% are raising children. As long as the amendment stays in force, it will continue to work against the benefit of those "future generations of children" who live in families led by same-sex parents. The kids' future is considered by some as collateral damage in an effort to minimize the rights of the LGBT community.
Equality Michigan is the main group working towards equality for Michigan's LGBT community. They formed as a result of a merger of two earlier groups: Triangle Group and Michigan Equality. They wrote:
"The amendment passed by 59%, in part due to public assurances by amendment supporters that the proposal would not affect health insurance and other benefits for partners and children. However, the true aim of anti-gay activists was to deny equality, dignity and financial stability to gay couples and their children as completely as possible. Soon after the passage of Proposal 2, activists began challenging existing domestic partner health coverage being offered by Michigan’s public universities and municipalities. The result was a 2008 decision by Michigan’s Supreme Court that ruled the benefits illegal under the anti-marriage amendment.
The ruling didn’t stop Michigan’s universities and municipalities from offering the benefits, however. State universities began the movement to offer health insurance and other benefits to “Other Eligible Individuals” (OEIs). OEI policies generally allow an employee to designate an adult that is living with them as a beneficiary for purposes of receiving benefits. In some cases the children of the OEI are also covered, allowing gay and other unmarried couples to provide at least some protections for their children." 1
- 2012 to present: Lawsuit seeking joint adoption by same-sex couples:
Joint adoption of children by same-sex couples is not available in Michigan. In 2012-JAN, a lesbian couple launched a lawsuit DeBoer v. Snyder in federal District Court seeking to have the courts overturn the state's ban on joint adoption. The couple are both nurses who are together raising three children who were adopted by only one of the partners. The defendants are Richard Snder in his official capacity as Governor of Michigan, and Bill Schnette in his capacity as Attorney General.
At a hearing in 2012-AUG, Judge Bernard A. Friedman referred to the state's ban on same-sex marriage "the underlying issue" in the lawsuit. He gave the couple ten days amend their suit to challenge that ban as well. This was accomplished in early September.
On 2013-MAR-07, after hearing arguments in the case, Judge Friedman ruled that he would delay his ruling until after the California Proposition 8 lawsuit, and federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that were currently before the U.S. Supreme Court had been decided. The Supreme Court ruled on both cases on 2013-JUN-26.
2013-MAY-09: Results of a poll of Michigan adults by Glengariff Group Inc., about SSM:
According to Equality Michigan, past polls have shown a rapid rise in support for same-sex marriage (SSM) in the state:
- 2004: 24%
- 2011: 38.5%
- 2012: 44.3%
On MAY-09, the Glengariff Group Inc. announced the findings of their poll of 600 Michigan adults picked at random. They found that support for same-sex marriage is continuing to increase. The 2013 poll showed 56.8% favoring SSM; an increase of 12.5 percentage points since 2012! This elevates support for SSM in Michigan to approximately equal values found in national polls. The poll's margin of error is ±4 percentage points. 2 Glengariff has regularly polled Michigan adults about same-sex marriage and civil unions since 2004. The agency's president, Richard Czuba, said:
"I don't think I've ever seen a policy question move as quickly as this one. ... Back in 2004, this was very much a wedge issue for Republicans. The shoe is on the other foot. This is still a values issue, but it's one of equality rather than 'stop this'."
Between 2012 and 2013, support rose among:
- Republican voters from 20% to 36%,
- Independent voters from 36% to 51%, and
- Democratic voters from 71% to 75%
However, Michigan Republican National Committeeman David Agema forecast a frightening future if SSM were made available to Michigan's loving, committed same-sex couples. He said:
"The vast majority of people understand the family unit is the basic basis of our society.
If (same-sex marriage) were to pass nationwide, I fear what kids would be taught in school. If it's a government-sanctioned lifestyle, hate crimes would begin for those speaking out against it, and we would lose our freedom of speech. Then they would come to churches and take tax-exempt status away from churches that didn't support the lifestyle. That's what happened in other countries."
For a political leader, Agema shows a remarkable lack of knowledge for the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
We have been unable to detect any country from among the approximately 17 that have legalized SSM by 2014 where any these events have occurred. Hate crimes related to SSM did triple in France as SSM enabling legislation was being passed in 2013-MAY. However, it involved the usual list of characters: religious, social, and political conservatives as perpetrators and randomly selected individuals from the LGBT community (or perceived as from that community) as victims of violence and murder.
A far more likely scenario is that people who oppose marriage equality in the future will be increasingly viewed as bigots. This is what has happened in many areas of the country with those opposed to interracial marriage. But only time will tell.
2013-MAY-13: Results of a poll of Michigan adults by EPIC-MRA about SSM:
An EPIC-MRA poll among 600 active voters who are likely to vote in 2014 was conducted using both land line phones and cell phones. 3 The margin of error is ±4 percentage points.
- Question concerning discrimination: "The Elliot Larson Civil Rights Act in Michigan provides civil rights protections against discrimination based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status." Voters were asked:
"Would you favor or oppose legislation to amend this law to include protection against discrimination
based on a person’s sexual orientation?
- 69% favored adding sexual orientation to the list of protected groups in the act.
- 26% were opposed.
- 5% were undecided or didn't answer
- A majority of Democrats, Independents, Republicans, conservatives, moderates, liberals, Protestants, Catholics, members of other religions, NOTAs -- person with no religious affiliation -- and union members all supported the amendment. The only group without majority support were Tea Party supporters. Still, a plurality of Tea Party supporters favored the amendment.
However, with a Republican controlled House and Senate, the likelihood of passing such an amendment is essentially zero. The 2013 makeup of the House is 59 Republicans, 50 Democrats and 1 Independent. The Senate is made up of 26 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Rick Snyder, the Governor, is a Republican. If any change is to be made it probably will be done through the federal court system.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Marriage for gay and lesbian couples," EqualityMichigan, undated, at: http://www.equalitymi.org/
- Joel Kurth, "Poll: Majority in Michigan now support gay marriage," Detroit News, 2013-MAY-14, at: http://www.detroitnews.com/
Copyright © 2013 & 2014by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initially posted: 2013-MAY-31
Latest update: 2014-MAR-19
Author: B.A. Robinson