Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Michigan.
Part 3: 2013 JUL to SEP: Webmaster comments.
Lawsuit in Federal District court. Public opinion
odd results. House activity about
religious discrimination by adoption agencies.
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 and 2014 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.
The fourth bill -- A resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is no longer a real concern. On 2013-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Windsor v. United States. The court declared that Section 3 of DOMA is unconsitutional. This freed up the federal government to extend 1,138 grants, benefits and protections to same-sex married couples that were earlier given only to opposite-sex married couples.
However, a more likely scenario on the same-sex marriage items is that the federal District Court in Michigan, described immediately below, will be part of a movement to have the U.S. Supreme Court declare marriage by both opposite-sex and same-sex couples the law of the land. Between mid-December, 2013, and mid-February, 2014 three federal District Court judges in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia all declared that a conflict exists between the states' constitutional amendments that banned same-sex marriage and the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. All three judged ruled that the SSM ban in the state constitutions are unconstitutional and unenforceable. Although the three judges legalized same-sex marriage, all ruling were stayed pending appeals. There are about a dozen other lawsuits active in federal courts that are yet to be decided.
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 Michigan constitutional amendment 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 [to hear the case], 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 [in Michigan] 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 federal court system is to interpret the U.S. Constitution in cases like this and to declare state laws and constitutional amendments unconstitutional if they violate the U.S. Constitution.
On 2013-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 had been recently 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 whichever side loses will appeal the case 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.
This poll has a margin of error of ±4 percentage points.
These results differ significantly from the Glengariff Group polls in 2013-MAY and 2014-FEB. The difference may have been caused by a question on abortion access that was also asked during the the August poll. Sometimes when a series of questions are asked on different topics, earlier questions can bias the answers to later questions.
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
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 & 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initially posted: 2013-JUL-15
Latest update: 2014-FEB-22
Author: B.A. Robinson