Supporters of a state constitutional amendment banning gay
marriage failed to clear their first legislative hurdle yesterday
as the House rejected the measure by a vote of 65 to 43, eight
short of the two-thirds majority required.

Mira Levitan
James Gray (left), Juan Carcasquillo of Ann Arbor and John Hanley of New York drink last night at the Aut Bar. The three were pleased to hear that the Michigan House of Representatives failed to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marrage by the r

“We are thrilled that this issue is not going to be on the
ballot in Michigan this year. I am proud to say I live in a state
that values its gay and lesbian citizens. We are excited to have
this issue behind us,” said Sean Kosofsky, director of the
Triangle foundation, the largest civil rights group for homosexuals
in Michigan.

Rep. Gary Newell (R-Saranac) said in a written statement he was
disappointed by the outcome, but hopes the legislature will
reconsider the issue soon.

“(A) statute may not be enough for us to safeguard the
integrity and sanctity of marriage,” Newell said, referring
to a current state law that prohibits same-sex marriage. “A
constitutional amendment would strengthen Michigan’s stance
in favor of traditional, heterosexual marriage.”

Rep. Lorence Wenke (R-Richland), one of three Republicans to
vote against the amendment, said the resolution’s purpose was
to discriminate against homosexuals, not to protect the institute
of marriage.

“This is a social policy issue. This is a religiously
motivated issue. The constitution is not the place for those types
of issues,” Wenke said, adding that traditional legislation
is the appropriate forum to address social policy concerns.

Newell said he disagrees with that logic, insisting that the
people should determine whether they want to allow same-sex
marriage.

“Michigan voters deserve the right to decide whether we
will protect marriage, one of the cornerstones of society, with a
constitutional amendment,” Newell said.

Should the resolution be considered again — which is
possible since the House approved a motion to reconsider it at a
later date — it would need to pass the House and the Senate
with a two-thirds majority in order to put on the ballot. A
majority of the voters would then need to ratify the amendment for
it to be added to the constitution.

Michigan residents had mixed opinions on the House vote. Recent
University alum Gerald Montanto said he was glad the amendment
failed.

“I would have felt threatened. If it did pass, I would try
to get out of (Michigan) as soon as possible,” Montano said,
adding that although he is in favor of gay marriage, he is not sure
if Americans are ready for it.

“You don’t change the constitution to discriminate
against people. The constitution is meant to protect people,”
said Melissa Sue Robinson, national director of the National
Association for the Advancement of Transgender People.

“It would really depress me to know the state I live in
did that,” Robinson added.

But LSA junior Collin McGlashen said he fears that allowing
same-sex couples to wed would endanger the sanctity of
marriage.

“I don’t want to take anything away from what a
same-sex relationship is and what they share,” McGlashen
said. “But what marriage is and how it has been viewed
… is a sacred institution between a man and a
woman.”

“That should be respected,” he added.

Although the original amendment sought to also prohibit the
granting of domestic partner benefits at public universities and
local governments, the language was dropped before the House vote
in a final effort to attract undecided representatives.

Michigan is just one of many states to address same-sex
marriage, which quickly became a divisive national issue after San
Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom began performing marriages for
homosexuals three weeks ago. Since then, more than 3,600 gay
couples have been wed in San Francisco

The San Francisco marriages were the impetus for other cities to
undertake similar measures. New Paltz, N.Y. Mayor Jason West was
charged last week with 19 misdemeanors for officiating 25 weddings
for homosexual couples who did not have licenses.

President Bush announced he supports a proposal to amend the
national constitution to prohibit gay marriage on Feb. 27. Only
three out of 15 Michigan members of the U.S. House of
Representatives favor the amendment, the Detroit Free Press
reported.

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