Advances in civil rights are indeed gaining momentum. New York has just become the 6th state (7th if you count Washington, D.C.) to allow same-sex marriage. With a President who seems loath to advocate the issue, it’s impressive to see a state generate the internal impetus to push such important legislation to fruition. Though the willingness seems to be present, progress is slow, and it’s important that the country follows in the footsteps of the few states that have taken this initiative. The same-sex marriage ban looks more outdated every year, and if there was ever a time for the state of Michigan to make strides, it’s now.
Same-sex marriage has a few avenues of potential legalization, one being through federal law. President Barack Obama has condemned the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defines marriage as a sanctity between a man and a woman. Additionally, DOMA doesn’t require states to honor same-sex marriages performed in other states. While it is necessary to strike down this prejudiced legislation, condemning it is hardly making a bold statement. Obama has said nothing in support of same-sex marriage and simply doesn’t support a federal marriage law, preferring to leave the legality of same-sex marriage up to the states. The country must have a universal policy protecting civil rights of homosexuals, and must have a strong figure to instigate it. Obama needs to rally the current momentum and push for a federal law that allows same-sex marriage.
In the event that Obama doesn’t push for a federal law regarding the issue, it will remain up to each state to make its own laws to this effect. Unfortunately, Michigan is one of the minority of states with a constitution that bans same-sex marriage. It even has specific language that forbids honoring the benefits of domestic partnerships and civil unions awarded in other states. It is because of this constitutional provision that the Michigan state legislature recently attempted to fine the University for extending benefits to cohabiting adults.
In a state that is often a forerunner in progress, it’s sad to see it stoop so low and share rank with other states in the rejection of equality. In this current social climate, it’s commendable that a few states gave gay men and women rights that they should have always had. New York’s laudable legislation would not have been possible without the initiative of Republicans who rejected their party’s ethos. Even with the potential backlash of conservatives and religious groups, there was an acknowledgement that individual rights are sometimes more important than public will. As Michigan lawmakers push forward with the extension of marriage rights for same-sex couples, it will be important to remember this fact: Michigan’s government has a duty to the public that elected them, but they also have a duty to minorities who might be disenfranchised by a close-minded majority. Michigan should follow New York and the five states before it and legalize same-sex marriage.