Saturday, March 22, 2014

Marriage Equality in Michigan

Yesterday a ruling came down from Federal District Court overturning a 2004 Michigan constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.  This amendment, like others across the country, stipulates that that true marriage is by definition between a man and a woman.  Like the others it was overturned because it is in conflict with the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.  

The Michigan Attorney General, who has vigorously defended the law, has based his defense on two things -- the State's duty to protect "traditional" marriage because it is necessary for proper family life -- that is marriage is defined as the context of procreation (even though many marry without any intent of having children) -- and the other is the will of the people.  

Yes, a majority of Michigan voters passed the amendment in 2004.  It's unlikely that the amendment would pass today as views on this issue have changed dramatically.  But more importantly, the same logic was used to support such things as a ban on interracial marriage (overturned by the courts in the 1960s) and slavery (overturned by Presidential Decree).  

On this matter I was contacted for a quote, which appears in the Detroit Free Press this morning.  This is my response -- as printed in the paper:

Pastor Bob Cornwall of Central Woodward Christian Church in Troy, a member of the Disciples of Christ denomination, said the ruling was a victory for justice.  
"This will be especially important for those couples raising children together. For me, this is a victory for families,” he said.
While a stay is expected on Monday, until then several County Clerks offices are open granting marriage licenses.  Although the window will be closed quickly, it seems likely that the Supreme Court will rule sooner than later on this matter.  With the Defense of Marriage Act already deemed unconstitutional on the same basis as this amendment, it would seem that there is a sufficient number of justices who will rule in favor of marriage equality.  

As a person of faith and a religious leader, I see this as both a matter of justice and an opportunity to provide community support for families who struggle for recognition and support.  Of course the journey is not yet complete.  We will have to remain strong in our focus.    But for a few hours it is appropriate to dance with joy.

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