The reverberations of an opening gunshot startled ears throughout the public sphere years ago. While other states made mad dashes across untread territory toward new ideas about equality, Michigan slept on the sidelines. March 21st, however, Michigan pinned the number 18 onto its shirt and sprinted to catch up in this race to provide the marriage rights homosexual couples lawfully deserve. Initiated by District Judge Bernard Friedman’s momentous decision to revoke a ban created in 2004, Michigan became the 18th state in the country to abolish restrictions on same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples and their supporters rejoiced throughout the state. Hundreds of couples flocked to county clerk offices on Saturday morning to be legally united and recognized as both spouses and parents. In fact, 300 couples proclaimed their vows to one another during the weekend when the initial declaration was made.
As a fervent advocate for the LGBTQ community and a genuinely concerned human being, I realize flawed notions like “normality” don’t exist in real life. Any politician or any voter concerned about the dismantling of “traditional family values” honestly needs to pull their minds out of the world of ‘50s sitcoms. Reading the news about the court decision excited me and reinstalled a shard of my broken faith in Michigan’s government. Sure, the state was exceedingly sluggish in acknowledging this breach of constitutional freedom. Yes, 10 years is a ridiculously and obscenely long time to deny individuals the rights to marry whoever they love and to provide stability for their children. I’ll admit I sometimes am overly enthusiastic and far too emotionally invested in my opinions about LGBTQ rights. Yet, I know progress is still worthwhile regardless of an unreasonably long delay. Earlier in the month, I set aside my usual annoyance with Michigan’s government. Despite my mental image of a state panting and choking upon the dust of its 17 teammates as it slowly jogged along the path they left behind, I was satisfied to finally see Michigan running in this race for equality.
My pride and zeal quickly toppled over. Within the same Saturday when about 322 marriages occurred in the state, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette placed an entirely unnecessary hurdle in the way. Michigan was finally gaining momentum and pushing itself to achieve equality. Within a moment, however, the same metaphorical 18th runner crashed into Schuette’s appeal with arms and legs flailing, and collapsed onto the ground. Due to the unjust action of the state’s appeals court, a bruised and bloody Michigan remained unconscious in the pathway — covered in the homophobic dirt other states kicked off their sneakers.
Michigan’s members of the LGBTQ community were at a similar impasse. Last week, Gov. Rick Snyder told happy newlyweds that their marriages wouldn’t be recognized by the state. Thankfully, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder intervened on the matter and prevented the frustrated couples from waiting to hear whether state government officials would strip them of their constitutional rights. The rationale used to justify this egregious breach of human rights in my mind is far worse than the request for an appeal of Friedman’s decision, and the state’s reinstitution of the ban is too inexcusable to remain unnoticed.
This entire situation of legal uncertainty and irresponsibility is based upon concerns about the sanctity of marriage, providing the best home environment for children, and decisions made by voters 10 years ago. Lawmakers were instantly prepared to hash out the clichéd argument that same-sex marriage is immoral and has negative effects upon children, but the studies are contradictory. If Michigan’s leaders truly had the well-being of citizens and children in mind, they would realize removing the stigma associated with same-sex marriage would lessen the stress, harassment and insecurity couples and families regularly face. Abandoning the defense of archaic voting decisions is in the best interest of Michigan’s citizens. It’s 2014! Times and opinions have changed, and there’s a whole new crop of voters who disagree with this ancient ruling. In this scenario, the federal government shouldn’t have needed to clean up Schuette and Snyder’s mess. By issuing the appeal and dangling the possibility of marriage rights in front of both married and unmarried LGBTQ members, Michigan officials are sending the message our brothers, sisters, parents, friends, roommates and classmates don’t deserve the full extent of their constitutional rights because they refuse to be stuffed into this nice, restricting imaginary box of normalcy and creating these hurdles is the only way to keep them from escaping.
Melissa Scholke is an LSA sophomore.