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Saturday, December 20, 2014

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From the Daily: Staying behind the times

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published March 27, 2014

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman issued a ruling that lifted Michigan’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriage. In less than 24 hours, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay on the judgment, which on Tuesday was extended indefinitely by the appeals court. Filed by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R), the stay means the government does not recognize the marriages of hundreds of couples who rushed to get married. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s ambivalence on the issue is not only discouraging, but also flies in the face of a majority of Michiganders, who are now in favor of same-sex marriage. By denying LGBTQ citizens equal protection under the law, the ban is in direct violation of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and requires immediate attention and action from the judiciary. The state government should support legal marriage for LGBTQ couples. The court should also revoke the stay on Friedman’s ruling. Schuette’s argument that Michigan voters approved the existing ban in 2004 completely ignores the public’s current opinion, as well as the fact that this decision is coming a decade later.

There is a clear mandate for the courts to strike down the ban on same-sex marriage. Since the passage of the 2004 ban, the public support for same-sex marriage has shifted. National support for same-sex marriage is the highest in history, and this cultural acceptance has been manifested in film, art, television and other forms of popular culture. Furthermore, 54 percent of Michiganders support same-sex marriage. The courts have historically followed the trend of public opinion in their interpretation of how the Constitution, written more than 200 years ago, is to be applied to present-day society and should continue to work within this framework to extend protection to more citizens.

After the ban was lifted last Friday, more than 300 couples across Michigan were legally married. The fact that these couples have now been placed in legal limbo is the latest unjust decision in a long debate over an outdated constitutional amendment. Snyder affirmed that the marriages were legal at the time they occurred but that the state will not recognize them. Not affording legal recognition to these unions cheats the couples out of full legal benefits — the very reason April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse brought their case to court. Instead of intervening in DeBoer and Rowse’s case by filing a holding, Schuette should recognize these couples in order to ensure that they have the same protections and benefits as other married citizens.

The behavior of our elected officials is neither appropriate nor representative of the collective will of Michigan’s citizens. Both Schuette and Snyder need to respect the majority opinion before advancing their own agendas. Snyder’s unwillingness to reconsider his stance on same-sex marriage or call for a legislative step toward to marriage equality is disheartening to the many couples married this weekend and unfair to the people whom he serves. Snyder has claimed that he only has the power to enforce the law, but continually backs legislation that makes its way through Michigan’s legislature. His hypocritical behavior and lack of leadership on this controversial issue during an election year is cowardly.


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