Stage set for battle over Michigan gay marriage ban


Friday, October 18, 2013

Detroit— Legal and legislative battle lines are being drawn in the wake of a judge’s decision to put the Michigan Marriage Amendment on trial in February.

Supporters of same-sex marriage are preparing for a $20 million campaign to repeal Michigan’s ban on gay marriage and replace it with a law legalizing it. Meanwhile, opponents say they’ll do all they can to convince voters to oppose such an initiative.

Emily Dievendorf, the managing director of Equality Michigan, said her group will be part of a coalition to get a measure before voters in 2016.

“Now Michigan is on everyone’s Top 10 list for the next place to look for marriage equality,” she said Thursday. “A repeal (of the marriage ban) would put into place full marriage equality.”

To put an initiative guaranteeing marriage rights to gays on the ballot, supporters will need more than 322,609 signatures or about 10 percent of the votes expected to be cast in the November 2014 gubernatorial race.

The deadline to submit the signatures is early July 2016 for the November election.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman heard arguments Wednesday on both sides of the issue and set a Feb. 25 trial date. Some same-sex couples had expected a possible ruling against the ban and had gathered Wednesday at county clerk offices around the state to apply for a marriage license.

State Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, said Thursday he thinks if voters today were given the same choice they were given in 2004 when they approved the state ban on gay marriage, the outcome might be different.

“Public opinion has changed and more people realize love is love,” said Irwin, a co-sponsor of a bill introduced in June to legalize same-sex marriage. “The public knows this is an issue of equal protection.”

State Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, who campaigned for Proposal 2, also known as the Michigan Marriage Amendment, said he plans to campaign against a repeal.

“We’ll vigorously oppose it,” he said Thursday. “We will aggressively defend what we have in our constitution and any attempts to change it.”

Other gay marriage opponents such as Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan and a co-author of the marriage amendment, said he doesn’t believe they will be successful in repealing it.

“The American Family Association of Michigan will encourage Michigan voters to vote ‘no’ on any such measure on a Michigan ballot,” Glenn said Thursday.

But Grace Wojcik, who was planning to legally marry her partner, Jessica Wojcik, on Wednesday if Friedman overturned the ban, says she will be part of the campaign to put a measure supporting gay marriage on the ballot in two years.

Grace Wojcik, a Farmington Hills resident, said while she was disappointed Friedman did not strike down the ban, she remains hopeful the February trial will bring more positive results.

“It helps build a stronger case,” she said. “A stronger decision by Friedman will be harder to overturn. Michigan is one of the worst states in terms of civil rights and equality for the LGBT community.”

From The Detroit News: