Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Michigan.
2013 OCT: House activity about religiously -
based discrimination in child
Trial date for lawsuit in federal court is set.
2013-OCT-25: House Speaker seeks a compromise on discrimination by adoption agencies:
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 religious groups to discriminate against the LGBT community.
Unfortunately, such a compromise appears impossible. The situation is something like same-sex marriage: the government can either allow it or ban it. There is no middle road.
The Michigan Legislative Report for the week ending 2013-OCT-25, contains a section titled: "Sexual orientation rights, religion balance." It says:
Mr. Bolger said he still is working to find some sort of balance between gay rights and religion.
"I don't want to force anybody to violate their religious beliefs. I don't want to see anyone targeted
because they're gay," he said. "Some may say (those) conflict. I think it is important for us as a society ... to respect all of our citizens and to understand individual liberty."
Mr. Bolger said the faith based adoption bills that sit on the House floor (HB 4927, HB 4928 and HB 4991) are just one part a greater issue. He said he wants to have answers on how to protect individual liberty and gay and religious rights before moving on the legislation.
"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."
Mr. Bolger said he is not ready to say yet that if the adoption bills come up for a vote, the addition of sexual orientation into the Elliott
Larsen Civil Rights Act would shortly follow.
Mr. Bolger said he also will continue to watch with interest U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman's action
regarding the state's gay marriage ban.
"The people defined marriage as one man and one woman, it happens to be the same way my religion defines marriage," he said. "What I hate to see is when people take that to then turn around and demonize people. And that's what happens on both sides of this question. People demonize somebody because of their sexual orientation, and that is wholly inappropriate, just as it is wholly inappropriate to demonize somebody because of their religious beliefs." 1
2013-OCT-16: Federal judge determines that a trial is necessary and sets a date:
Re: April DeBoer v. Richard Snyder, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, No. 12-10285:
The state had submitted a brief to the Court listing four arguments in support of preserving the Michigan Marriage Amendment (MMA) in the state Constitution and continuing to exclude same-sex couples from marriage. 4 They suggested that MMA should continue to exist in order to:
- Provide children with "biologically connected" role models of both genders that the state believes are necessary to foster healthy psychological development. The defendants would probably have a great deal of difficulty demonstrating the validity of this argument because it would necessarily be based mainly or exclusively on the Regnerus study at the University of Texas -- a study that has been widely discredited by professional groups. It was even disowned later during the trial by the Sociology Department of the University of Texas during the trial. It is well established that children, on average, thrive better if there are two parents in the family. However, the belief that they must be of opposite sexes has been rejected by a variety of national associations in the psychiatry, psychology, and sociology professions, and by numerous smaller studies.
- Avoid the unintended consequences that might result from redefining marriage. Again, the state would seem to be facing an uphill battle demonstrating that unintended consequences actually exist. Same-sex marriage have been available in North America for over a decade so far, and no such events have been noted.
- Uphold tradition and morality. These are very important factors for many religious and social conservatives. However, the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas disallowed appeals to morality and tradition as justification for state laws.
- Promoting the transition
of "naturally procreative relationships into stable unions." A very good case could be easily made that allowing loving, committed same-sex couples to marry would certainly promote the transition of their relationships -- which are not procreative without medical assistance -- into stable units. Many find it difficult to see how permitting same-sex marriage would detract in any way from the marriages of opposite-sex couples and make them less stable.
Plaintiffs April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse returned to federal District Court hoping for a summary judgment that day. DeBoer said:
“We’re hoping this is the beginning of the end for our journey. We know we have a long fight, but we’re hoping that we get the start of an answer today. ... We don’t see ourselves as poster women for anything. If anything, we’re poster women for our [adopted] children and the rights of [other] children like ours in Michigan."
Many in the LGBT community had hoped that U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman would issue a ruling that would legalize same-sex marriages throughout the state. Dozens of marriage equality supporters and one lone opponent gathered outside the federal courthouse before the hearing. The protestor was Christine Weik, who drove for two hours so that she could take part. She said:
"I’m glad God got me out of bed today. I’m the only voice for the Bible here. [Same-sex marriage is] ... an abomination to the Lord and it breaks down the family core. Two men, two women — I’m sorry, you don’t get children out of that."
Actually, she is wrong. A lesbian or bisexual woman can conceive a child through artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization. Alternately, same-sex couples can do as DeBoer and Snyder have done and adopt children. Also, some male same-sex couples use surrogacy. That is, they build a family using the same assisted techniques as infertile opposite-sex couples do.
Even if a ruling had been issued immediately, it would undoubtedly have been appealed, and a stay of the District Court ruling would have been applied.
Judge Friedman concluded that the state had raised:
"... triable issues of fact regarding whether the proffered rationales for the MMA serve a legitimate state interest, but that plaintiffs had not demonstrated their entitlement to summary judgment." 4
The supporters of marriage equality were disappointed. Judge Friedman announced that the case would go to trial beginning on 2014-FEB-25. He said:
"I wish I could sit here today and give you a definitive ruling. There are issues that have to be decided. ... I am in the middle. I have to decide this as a matter of law, and I intend to do so."
Referring to the existing state constitutional amendment that restricts marriage to opposite-sex couples, Carole Stanyar, an attorney for the couple, said:
"There are no second-class citizens in this country. This amendment enshrined discrimination in the state constitution. ... These marriage bans ... are hurting the most vulnerable members of our society,"
She is obviously in error. In Michigan, same-sex couples are currently second-class citizens because they are not allowed to marry. Her two clients are prime examples. Although the equal access and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantee them equal treatment, the do not do so automatically. Equal treatment must be fought for.
Dana Nessel, another lawyer representing the couple, said that they had hoped to have a "victory lap" that day. She said that they will bring witnesses before the judge in February. She said:
"If that's what he needs, if he needs to hear it with his own ears, and he needs to be there listening to the testimony and assessing the credibility of the witnesses, then that's what he's going to get."
She also said:
"It's very critical that we have a federal court step in and say, 'No, you cannot use your laws to discriminate against what has historically been an unpopular segment of society'."
Lisa Brown, the Oakland County Clerk who is named as a defendant in the case even though she favors marriage equality, said:
"I know there's a lot of disappointed people out there whose rights are being violated."
Joy Yearout, spokesperson for state Attorney General Bill Schuette said:
"The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states retain the constitutional authority to define marriage. We will continue to aggressively defend Michigan's Constitution in this case."
Yearout has expressed a belief that almost everyone can agree on. It is definitely the responsibility of each state to define who is eligible to marry and who is not. States define how old a couple must be in order to marry. They decide whether first cousins can marry. They sometimes define a waiting interval after a couple buys a marriage license before they can marry, etc.
However, that is not the question here.
The actual question is whether the marriage amendment in a state constitution that bans same-sex marriage violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Judging by press releases to the media:
- Most religious and social conservatives seem to believe that it doesn't matter whether such a violation exists. Since the amendment has been passed by a vote of the public a decade ago, they believe that it should be considered valid today even though the majority of voters in Michigan have shifted from opposition to support for same-sex marriage.
- Most religious and social liberals and secularists believe that if the state and federal constitutions conflict, then the amendment to the state constitution is unconstitutional. Between mid-2013-DEC, and late 2014-FEB five federal District Court judges in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Virginia have all declared that such their state constitutions violated the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Thus the SSM ban in the state constitutions are unconstitutional and unenforceable. Although the five judges legalized same-sex marriage in their states, all of their rulings have been stayed pending appeals.
Gary Glenn, head of the American Family Association of Michigan -- a conservative Christian advocacy group -- said:
"One Detroit lawyer in a black robe doesn't have the legitimate constitutional or moral authority to overturn the will of millions of Michigan voters."
Glen appears to be unaware that one of the prime responsibilities of a federal District Court judge is declare parts of the state constitution to be void and unenforceable if it conflicts with the U.S. Constitution. 2,3
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Michigan Legislative Report, Michigan Legislature, 2013-OCT-21, at: http://www.michiganpolicechiefs.org/ This is another accursed PDF file.
- Steve Neavling & Joseph Lichterman, "Michigan same sex marriage case delayed, frustrating gay activists," Reuters, 2013-OCT-10, at: http://www.reuters.com/
- Jim Schaefer & Tresa Baldas, "Judge says Mich. gay marriage ban will go to trial," Detroit Free Press, 2013-OCT-16, at: http://www.usatoday.com/
- Judge Bernard Friedman, text of his ruling in DeBoer et al. v. Snyder et al., 2014-MAR-21, at: http://www.equalitymi.org/ Page 3. This is a PDF file
Copyright © 2013 & 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initially posted: 2013-SEP-15
Latest update: 2014-MAR-24
Author: B.A. Robinson