Gay marriage rights lost in Maine, local fight persists
A Michigan legislator proposed a plan Wednesday to legalize same-sex marriage in the state, a day after the gay rights movement made progress locally and lost momentum nationally.
Michigan House of Representatives Speaker Pro Tempore Pam Byrnes, D-Lyndon Township, announced Wednesday she will introduce a plan that, if passed, will overturn the Marriage Protection Amendment, or Proposal 2, which outlawed same-sex marriage in the state in 2004.
Byrnes’ plan came in the wake of Tuesday’s election, which included both victories and defeats for gay rights activists.
Kalamazoo became Michigan’s 16th city to pass an ordinance preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity for employment, housing and public services.
Byrnes’ proposal would be an amendment to Michigan’s constitution 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.
“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.”
Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, coauthored the Marriage Protection Amendment and said Michiganians have shown they are on his side.
“Marriage between a man and a woman has proven its benefit to society,” Glenn said. “As Michigan voters proved, most people in the state don’t think we should be engaging in a radical experiment of redefining marriage between a man and woman.”
However, voters in Maine — formerly one of six U.S. states permitting same-sex marriage — decided to veto marriage legislation passed earlier this year.
Maine Sen. Dennis Damon, who introduced the legislation, said he was disappointed with the election results, but said he couldn’t argue with how democracy works, even if it’s against his cause.
“We have chosen to allow the wall of discrimination and bigotry and bias to remain standing,” he said. “But I think we have put a good-sized crack in it. It’s my hope that someday, through our efforts, that we can finally tear it down.”
No state has legalized same-sex marriage through an election, despite 31 attempts across the country.
Byrnes said despite setbacks such as those in Maine, she will continue to fight to overturn Proposal 2.
“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.
Although Byrnes hopes to gather support to overturn the state’s ban, public opinion might not be on her side.
Ingham County Commissioner Mark Grebner, who also is an East Lansing-
based political consultant at Practical Political Consulting, Inc., asked Michigan residents to fill out a mock ballot including a measure to repeal the ban on same-sex marriage.
In September, Grebner released the results that 50 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of independents and 90 percent of Republicans would not vote to overturn the measure.
Grebner’s results indicate public opinion would need to change in order for Justin Ford, a communications senior and program assistant at the LBGT Resource Center to get married in Michigan.
Ford and his fiancé plan to get married in Boston, because Massachusetts allows same-sex marriage.
“If we could have our wedding and reception right in the same place in Michigan
and have it legal here, that would be awesome,” Ford said.
“All our family and friends would be able to witness our special day with us.”
Ford said he hopes Byrnes’ proposal will gather enough momentum to make it through the Legislature, but Glenn said he considers that a small possibility.
“If there is any momentum being built, it’s being built in one direction,” he said.