Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Michigan.
Part 3: 2013 JUL to SEP: Webmaster comments.
Lawsuit in Federal District court. Public opinion
reversed results. House activity about
religious discrimination in child adoption.
Webmaster's comment on the four bills before the Michigan Legislature:
- The Governor is a Republican;
- The Republicans have a 14 seat majority in the Senate, and a 9 vote majority in the House, and
- "Only" close to 70% of the voters favoring same-sex marriage,
I estimate that the chance of these bills proceeding in 2013 probably lies between 0.00% and 0.01%. However, promotion of these four bills will cause the people of Michigan to think about and discuss marriage equality. That will inevitably increase support for SSM until, in future years, the Republican legislators will no longer be able to oppose SSM without endangering every legislator's prime directive: to be reelected.
2013-JUL-10: Lawsuit by a lesbian couple is heard in federal court:
April DeBoer, a nurse, has adopted a special needs girl who is now 3 years-of-age. April's partner, Jayne Rowse, is also a nurse. She had separately adopted two special needs boys who are now 3 and 4 years-of-age. They live in Detroit and been together as a same-sex couple for six years. Each has been banned by state law from adopting her partner's child or children. If they were a married opposite-sex couple, state law would have allowed them to jointly adopt the three children by a routine procedure.
During 2012-JAN, the couple launched a lawsuit in federal court to challenge the constitutionality of the Michigan law that denies them the right to jointly adopt their three children. Judge Bernard Friedman of the U.S. District Court -- an appointee of President Ronald Reagan -- told the couple that the more fundamental obstacle to their adoption wishes was not the state law, but the amendment to the state Constitution passed by 59% of voters in 2004 that bans same-sex marriages. He suggested that they expand their lawsuit to involve that amendment as well. Judge Friedman has also expressed skepticism that neither the law nor the constitutional amendment furthers a legitimate government objective.
It is worth noting that support for same-sex marriages has been increasing nationally by about one to two percentage points per year since 2004. If the plebiscite were held today, there is little doubt but that it would fail.
On JUL-01, Judge Friedman dismissed a motion requested by the State to dismiss the case, saying that the couple was "entitled to their day in court and they shall have it." Michigan Attorney General, Bill Schuette, reacted negatively to Judge Friedman's decision, saying:
"We are disappointed in Judge Friedman’s decision, but we look forward to aggressively defending Michigan’s constitution."
Kenneth Mogill, one of the couple's lawyers, said:
"This was clearly the correct decision, and we look forward to taking the next steps to establish April and Jayne’s right to marry and adopt each other’s children."
Niraj Warikoo of the Detroit Free Press wrote:
"Supporters of the state’s position, which include evangelical Christians and Catholic leaders in Michigan, say the courts can’t overturn what the people decided in 2004."
This point of view is often seen in the media: that because the United States is a democracy, when the voters approve of something in a referendum, it automatically becomes law. But the U.S. is not a direct democracy, it is a constitutional democracy. The highest authority in the land is not the majority opinion of the public. It is the U.S. Constitution, Apparently the evangelicals and Catholics mentioned are not aware that:
- If a state Constitution conflicts with the federal Constitution, then the latter rules, and
- It is one of the major roles of the U.S. Supreme Court to interpret the U.S. Constitution in cases like this.
On JUL-10, the Court heard oral arguments in the case. Judge Friedman told the lawyers that he would probably rule on the case by October. He also cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Windsor v. United States that was released on JUN-26. He said that the Justices expressed concern that refusing to allow same-sex couples to marry would impair the rights of children raised by such couples. Justice Kennedy, who had written the ruling for the majority, said specifically that DOMA discriminated against "... tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples." Judge Friedman said that this concern is involves "... exactly the type of harm plaintiffs seek to remedy in this case."
Whatever the decision of Judge Friedman, it is essentially inevitable that the case would be almost instantly appealed to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 1,2
2013-AUG-02: A Michigan poll shows voters opposed to marriage equality:
A poll of 600 likely voters by Lambert, Edwards & Associates produced a curious result. It showed:
- 51% "... oppose having same-sex marriage brought up for a vote, while 42 percent support the move."
- 52% oppose holding a constitutional amendment to allow same-sex marriage in Michigan.
These results differ significantly from the Glengariff Group poll in May. The difference may have been caused by a question on abortion access that was also asked during the the August poll.
In 2004, Michigan voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that banned same-sex marriage. Supporters of marriage equality are working on a 2016 ballot initiative to repeal that amendment.
Pollster Dennis Denno said:
"I think part of this is people are sick and tired of government regulating social issues." 3
This poll has a margin of error of ±4 percentage points.
2013-SEP-13: House bills 4927 & 4928 cleared House Committee on Families, Children, and Seniors:
If passed into law, these bills would allow adoption agencies to receive money from the government, as usual, and then to freely reject any couples seeking to adopt a child on the basis of the agencies' moral or religious beliefs. Michigan currently has about 14,000 children in foster care of whom about 3,000 are available for adoption and are waiting for new families.
Committee chairman Rep. Kenneth Kurtz (R), the lead sponsor of House Bill 4927, and Rep. Andrea LaFontaine (R) the lead sponsor of House Bill 4928 spoke in support of the bills.
Equality Michigan's managing director, Emily Dievendorf, said:
"The ongoing efforts by out of touch elected leaders serving in the Michigan Legislature to turn Michigan into a state which values intolerance over reason is alarming and must be stopped. Equality Michigan is proud of our members who sent thousands of emails opposing these bills. We encourage them to tell House leadership that they have an opportunity to do the right thing and kill these bills. We are committed to making sure that our legislators know that Michigan voters will not tolerate efforts to legalize discrimination." 4
Jay Kaplan, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, said that the bills would:
"... eliminate the consideration of the best interests of the child when a faith-based agency had a religious objection to an adoptive parent or couple."
Rev. Nicolette Siragusa, pastor of a Grand Ledge church, who said she opposed the bill because it put the religious beliefs of the adoption agencies ahead of the needs of children. She said:
"Under these proposed bills, even fit parents with good and loving homes may be rejected by agencies based on any arbitrary criteria the agency calls a 'sincerely held religious belief'." 5
According to Christian Post:
"William Blacquiere, president and CEO of Bethany Christian Services, an adoption agency in Grand Rapids, testified at the hearing that the bills will not hamper any family from adopting a child. Rather, the purpose of the bills is to protect faith-based adoption agencies from going out of business by trying to force them to practice something that went against their religious beliefs.
"There is nothing in this bill that would preclude a single or secular person to adopt. ... The bills are only concerned with individual faith-based agencies and will allow those agencies to continue to exercise their faiths." 6
Bill sponsor Andrea LaFontaine (R) said:
"Our government shouldn’t be asking private organizations to act against their religious beliefs. No one will be prevented from adopting as a result of these bills. All that will happen is that the few faith-based agencies operating in Michigan will not be forced by the state to violate their religious beliefs, and will be able to continue working to help Michigan children." 7
Bill sponsore Kenneth Kurtz (R) said:
"In other states that didn’t write this practice into law, many faith-based agencies were forced to close their doors or violate their strongly held religious beliefs. These agencies are essential partners for the state in helping many children find loving homes. Preserving this partnership will allow these agencies to continue to work with the state to help children in foster care and going through the adoption process while still allowing anyone to adopt in the state." 7
This conflict appears to be still another case of the traditional definition of "religious tolerance" and "religious liberty" changing to become the new definition which includes the freedom to denigrate and discriminate against minorities based on one's religious beliefs. Somehow discriminating against people is no longer to be considered discrimination if it is motivated by religious faith. Somehow, to automatically reject all same-sex couples applying to adopt is not hampering "any family from adopting a child." This reasoning is difficult to understand.
2013-OCT-25: House Speaker seeks compromise:
Speaker Jase Bolger (R) is attempting to find a compromise between the rights of the LGBT community to not be discriminated against and the desire by religous groups to discriminate against LGBTs. Unfortunately, no such compromise appears possible. The situation is something like same-sex marriage: the government either allows it or banns it. Bolger said:
I think the adoption issue again raises one very important example. But it is not the only example," he
said. "I think the committee did very good work. And as it sits on the floor
the conversation continues on
how do we answer all of these questions.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Joseph Lichterman, "Michigan same-sex marriage ban faces federal test in October," Reuters, 2013-JUL-10, at: http://www.reuters.com/
- Brian Dickerson, "Michigan case could spell end of same-sex bans in 37 states," Detroit Free Press, 2013-JUL-14, at: http://www.freep.com/
- Chad Livingood, "Poll: Michigan voters against abortion restrictions, gay marriage," The Detroit News, 2013-AUG-02, at: http://www.detroitnews.com/
- Gregory Varnum, "Committee Passes Bills Denying Homes to Foster Children," Equality Michigan, 2013-SEP-25, at: http://www.equalitymi.org/
- Brian Smith, "Religious exception for Michigan adoption agencies sparks brief debate in House committee," mLIVE, 2013-SEP-11, at: http://www.mlive.com/
- Katherine Weber, "Faith-Based Adoption Agencies Fight for Religious Freedom in Michigan," Christian Post, 2013-SEP-13, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
- "House committee approves bills preserving religious freedom for private adoption agencies," GOPHouse, 2013-SEP-25, at: http://gophouse.org/
Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initially posted: 2013-JUL-15
Latest update: 2013-SEP-15
Author: B.A. Robinson