The fight for civil liberties, be it based on color, gender or – in the case of the ruling on Monday – sexual orientation, has always been an uphill battle. Yesterday, the state Court of Appeals created another obstacle in the fight for equality by granting state Attorney General Mike Cox’s motion for a stay on a lower court’s ruling allowing benefits for same-sex couples. His actions are in response to Michigan voters passing Proposal 2 – a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman. Cox must realize the harmful effects of his crusade against homosexual relationships and re-align himself with the majority Michigan voters that support benefits for same-sex couples.
Regardless of the rampant “moral crisis” of homosexuality, Cox and the Court of Appeals should have realized before issuing the stay that revoking benefits from same-sex couples will put people who rely on the benefits in danger. At worst, if the Court of Appeals had erred against Cox and chosen not to stay the lower court’s decision, some moral conservatives would have been offended. Instead, the appeals court’s stay will strip same-sex couples of health-care benefits, leaving many without a way to pay doctor and hospital bills. In the worst case, this stay could prevent individuals from seeking out potentially lifesaving treatment.
Cox is not merely persecuting same-sex couples; he is misrepresenting the Michigan public to advance a personal agenda. A spokeswoman for Cox said, “We will continue to follow our obligation to defend the will of Michigan voters.” A recent EPIC/MRA poll out of Lansing, however, has indicated that 47 percent of Michigan voters support same-sex benefits while only 39 percent oppose them. Clearly, Michigan voters with an opinion support equal rights for same-sex couples. If he truly wants to follow the “obligation to defend the will of Michigan voters,” Cox must reposition himself in favor of same-sex benefits.
Cox believes Michigan voters oppose same-sex benefits because they passed Proposal 2, which specifies the “union of one man and one woman” as the “only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.” Michigan voters, who bought into propaganda and believed the proposal was only about marriage, are partially at fault for overwhelmingly passing Proposal 2. Of course, the campaign for Proposal 2 did mislead voters, asserting that same-sex benefits would not be affected by the proposal. However, Proposal 2’s ballot language could easily be interpreted to restrict those benefits: “The only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.” The unintended implications of this proposal should be a wake-up call to Michigan voters: Be absolutely clear about ballot issues, especially when they’re about hard-to-reverse constitutional changes.
Cox needs to realize the harmful effects his crusade will have on the day-to-day lives of homosexual couples. In his discriminatory quest, he is both misrepresenting the will of Michigan voters and obstructing the fight for civil equality. While voters were tricked into passing a much broader amendment than intended, the state must find a way to make the best of the current situation. Seeking a hard-line interpretation of Proposal 2 and trampling the rights of same-sex couples is no way to start.