Voters in Michigan approved a ballot proposal yesterday to amend
the state’s constitution to ban gay marriage and other
similar unions. With the adoption of Proposal 2, the constitution
will now define the union between a man and a woman in legal
marriage as “the only agreement recognized as a marriage or
similar union for any purpose.”
About 63 percent of voters approved the proposal.
Kristina Hemphill, spokeswoman for Citizens for the Protection
of Marriage, the group that collected petition signatures in order
to put the proposal on the ballot, said, “When we saw the
number of signatures collected during the petition drive, we knew
Michigan citizens understood the issue and wanted to protect the
meaning of marriage.”
Speaking during the group’s victory party in Lansing,
Hemphill said, “We are now celebrating the victory, that the
voice of the people have been heard.”
Opponents of the proposal have voiced their disappointment over
the outcome but are not willing to concede that their cause is
lost. Rocky Byington, a member of the Coalition for a Fair
Michigan, said, “If Kerry becomes the next president, there
is still hope that something can be done at the federal level to
preempt what is being done at the state level.”
In fact, it is very likely the constitutionality of the
amendment will be challenged in the courts. Andrea Knittel,
co-chair of the Stonewall Democrats — the gay and trasngender
arm of the College Democrats — said, “We are arguing
that this amendment puts discrimination into our constitution. The
last six words are so vague and poorly worded that we don’t
know what the amendment will do.” Members of the Stonewall
Democrats have been campaigning against the proposal on campus,
talking to potential voters on the Diag every day for the past
Knittel said the amendment threatens to take away benefits that
were offered to couples in domestic partnerships and civil unions.
As such, unions will no longer be recognized under state law. This
means benefits such as health insurance for domestic partners and
their children may be taken away now that the proposal has been
However, Hemphill argued that all the amendment aims to do is to
protect the traditional meaning of marriage. “This has never
been about taking benefits away from people. The last six words of
the amendment were added on the advice of our legal counsel in
order to precisely define marriage. Even the court of appeals
agreed that this was the best way to protect the definition of
“With Proposal 2, the goals of the ballot were very
intentionally left out, unlike other proposals,” Knittel
countered. “The proponents do not want people to know how
broad the amendment is, and what it will actually do.”
University Law School Dean Evan Caminker said, “There is
sufficient passion on both sides to bring this case to the courts
in order to define exactly what the amendment means.”
A possible position opponents could take is to challenge the
constitutionality of the amendment based on the way it is worded.
Mae Kuykendall, professor of law at Michigan State
University’s College of Law, explained, “The wording of
the amendment is a poor match for what its proponents claim it
should achieve — that is, to protect marriage from an assault
by state judges. This amendment goes much farther, appearing to
invalidate private arrangements and civil unions.”
She noted that state laws already ban gay marriage and that
Michigan’s conservative courts currently would not use the
state constitution to overturn the statutory ban on gay marriage.
Hence, according to Kuykendall, the wording of this amendment is
hostile to homosexual people as it denies them benefits that
domestic partnerships and civil unions offer.
While unmarried heterosexual couples will suffer a similar loss
of benefits that normally come with civil unions — because
the amendment says that the state can only recognize marriage as a
type of legal union —gay couples will bear the brunt of the
proposal, she added.
Despite the proposal’s outcome, the University said it
will still offer benefits to same-sex and heterosexual couples.
President Mary Sue Coleman has said the University will continue
offering health care and other benefits to same-sex domestic
partners of University employees. In a letter to University faculty
and staff on Oct. 14, Coleman wrote, the University will
“vigorously defend (its) right to offer such benefits,”
regardless of the amendment.
Knittel applauded Coleman’s stand. “It is a good
place for the University to be standing up for what it believes in
— equality.”Washtenaw County was among those that voted
against the proposal — about 65 percent voted against it. As
of 4:40 a.m. today, 10 out of the 11 states, that put gay marriage
bans on the ballot had approved their proposals.
Meaning of Prop 2
The only type of legal union the state will recognize is
marriage between one man and one woman.
In addition to the constitutional ban on gay marriage, opponents
of the amendment say its language could be interpreted to ban
domestic partnership benefits to same-sex couples.
The ‘U’ says it will still give benefits to same-sex