Monday, November 9, 2009

Michigan Lawmaker Introduces Same-Sex Marriage Ban Repeal

I'm still catching up on some of the amazing news that broke after last weeks elections.

The day after Tuesday's elections, Michigan Speaker Pro Tempore Pam Byrnes introduced her plans to undo the state's same-sex marriage ban.

Byrnes' proposal would be an amendment to Michigan's Constitution to repeal the Proposal 2 same-sex marriage ban and and would need a two-thirds vote by the Legislature in order to be placed on the ballot in the November 2010 election.

If voters approved it, the amendment would legalize same-sex marriage in the state, recognize marriages from other states and include a provision to allow clergy members to deny certifying a marriage at their place of worship.

Back in June, Byrnes had first announced her intentions after a poll showed that state residents' views had grown more favorable of same-sex unions. The passage of the non-discrimination ordinance Tuesday in Kalamazoo by a wide margin underlines the growing support for LGBT issues in Michigan.

However, marriage equality in Michiganhas quite a few challenges. Michael Ginsborg at Proposition 8 and the Right to Marry reports, "Michigan has constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage. Its constitution has a 'super-DOMA' amendment (Art. 1, § 25) that also bans recognition of unions similar to marriage "for any purpose." In National Pride at Work, Inc. v. Governor of Michigan, 748 N.W.2d 524 (Mich. 2008), the state Supreme Court ruled that the city of Kalamazoo could not extend benefits to the qualified domestic partners of city employees."

"This is ... an economic issue," Byrnes told the Detroit News. "Young people want to go to cities and communities that are progressive, accepting of people and have good quality of life. That's something that Kalamazoo is now going to have."

"I know it's going to be a struggle," she said. "(But) we have seen some very significant changes in a short period of time; the ordinance in Kalamazoo is an indication.

"If (people) have a gay daughter or son, they think they should be able to enter into a committed relationship," Byrnes said. "We're going to keep pushing this until we have enough votes to do it."

Dave Maluchnik, director of communications with the Michigan Catholic Conference, doesn't believe the Kalamazoo vote has anything to do with marriage equality. His organization was a major proponent of Proposal 2.

"We've made our position on the issue of marriage loud and clear and will continue to do so," Maluchnik said. "Michigan voters are concerned right now about the state's economy and anything that (distracts) the Legislature from that issue is not in Michigan's best interest."

Though no state has ever approved marriage equality at the ballot and has banned it in 31 states, Byrnes believes what has happened in Maine and all the other states shouldn't keep her from trying.

“The fact that another state didn’t do the right thing, that doesn’t prevent us from trying to do the right thing,” Byrnes said.

"This bill boils down to treating people with the dignity and respect everyone deserves,” Byrnes said at a press conference Wednesday at the Capitol.

“So many of us were raised to treat others how we would want to be treated, so it’s about time we started acting that way as well.”

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