Proposed Same-Sex Marriage Bill Surprises Michigan Dems

LANSING — Concerned with the party’s electoral fortunes in 2010, many
Michigan Democrats were caught off guard on Friday when State Rep. Pam Byrnes
announced she would introduce legislation aimed at reversing the
state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage OK’d by voters in 2004.

“The time has come,” Byrnes, the House speaker pro tem, said in an interview.
“I think attitudes are changing. We are seeing other states flip on
this issue especially when you get the former Vice President Dick
Cheney acknowledging same-sex marriages…then I think we definitely see
a change in attitude and it’s time to revisit this.”

Byrnes plans on formally announcing her legislation on Saturday at
the Michigan Pride gay rights rally at the state Capitol. But the
Washtenaw County Democrat’s plan faces considerable challenges.

A two-thirds majority in both legislative chambers is required in order
to put the measure before Michigan voters. While the Democrats control
the House, which would be more likely to pass Byrnes’ bill, getting
two-thirds of the Republican-controlled Senate would be considerably more

“While we support repeal of the ban, I think getting a two-thirds
[majority vote in the legislature] could be difficult,” said Mark
Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party. “We will have to deal
with it as it moves along the process.”

Gary Glenn of the American Family Association of Michigan, who
helped drive the ballot initiative that ultimately created Michigan’s
constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, said Byrnes’ proposed
legislation has little chance of success.

“In the unlikely event it ever does come up for a vote, we doubt it
gets even a simple majority of the House voting in favor of overturning
so recent a vote of the people,” Glenn said in an email to Michigan
Messenger. “It certainly will not get the two-thirds vote required to
actually place it on the ballot. But it does make for high drama, as
political theater goes, to announce such legislation during a
homosexual ‘rights’ rally, even though it’ll never see the light of day

And Glenn could be right. While a recent poll reported on by the Detroit Free Press has
showed a significant shift in support for same-sex marriage in the
state since the 2004 statewide vote, support for same-sex marriage in
the state currently stands at 46.5 percent.

While Brewer said it was premature to assess how Byrnes’ proposed
legislation could affect the 2010 legislative and gubernatorial races,
the Michigan Democratic Party chief acknowledged that putting lawmakers
in the position of voting on legislation seen as “pro-gay marriage”
could be used as a weapon in the coming election, where control of both
legislative chambers could be in play.

“It’s a queston of whether it comes up for a vote,” said Brewer. “It
also puts Republicans in tough spots. I would be surprised if [Sen.
Majority Leader] MIke Bishop [R-Rochester] would allow something like
this to come to a vote.”

Byrnes’ unexpected move to introduce the same-sex marriage
legislation has raised questions about the lawmaker’s timing, which
could be tied to the speaker pro tem’s political calculus.

Observers have noted that Byrnes, whose 52nd House District
seat encompasses sections of the city of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County
towns and townships north and west of the city, may be eying a run for
the 18th Senate District
seat that takes in much of Democratic-dominated county. That district,
currently represented by Liz Brater, whose seat is term-limited, is said to be
eyed by State Rep. Rebekkah Warren of the 53rd House District,
which takes in the majority of the city of Ann Arbor and portions of
neighboring townships. Warren is the daughter of State Rep. Alma
Wheeler Smith of Salem Township, who is running for the Democratic
gubernatorial nomination.

Some sources have told Michigan Messenger that Byrnes could be using
Saturday’s announcement and the same-sex marriage legislative push as a
way to increase her visibility among Ann Arbor’s GLBT community in
order to boost her chances at winning Brater’s seat.

Phil Volk, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party’s LGBTA Caucus,
said it’s hard to predict how Byrnes’ legislation might be received.

“It’s going to depend on who frames the questions first and gets their talking points out,” Volk said of the proposal.

Still, Volk said: “We are going to see a lot of people diving for cover.”

Volk said marriage equality proponents have to frame the issue as
equality, and prevent the opponents, like Glenn from framing it as a
“family values thing.”

Michelle Brown, co-director of Michigan Equality, said Byrnes’ move was important, and would move the issue forward.

“If you don’t ever start to talk about it, how will you ever be
ready to talk about it?” Brown said. “So to have someone in the
legislature say: ‘You know what, it’s time we revisit it,’ to me sort
of says its a wake-up call for everybody that perhaps we all need to be
listening to what the people of Michigan are saying.”

Brown said the impact on the 2010 election cycle is going to be how
the LGBT community responds to Byrne’s move and any legislators who
support it.

“The impact is if we sit at home in 2010,” Brown said.

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  • anna-clark

    Small clarification: Rep. Warren is the daughter-in-law of Rep. Wheeler Smith—not the daughter.

    Thanks for the report. 2010 is going to be wild here in Michigan.

  • invalid-0

    Todd, Just want to give you something to think about regarding gay marriage. While I do understand there are some legal benefits to marriage, I would personally not wish the institution of legal marriage on my own worst enemy. I have a feeling you have absolutely no idea what you’re getting yourselves into. Trust me, most people who get married have no idea what they’re signing up for. You really don’t want this “equality”. You might as well be marching for daily floggings – that’s how little I think of legal marriage. I would gladly give up any tax break I get to be freed from my marriage. I really wish the gay community would forget about this path and move towards some type of civil union – something that gives partners familial rights. I am for these types of civil unions for ALL people and oppose legal marriage for ALL people. There’s a lot of confusion about what legal marriage really is. Despite being a church-going Presbyterian I laugh at my fellow Christians reading over scripture and claiming marriage is between a man and a woman. The truth is the Church pushed marriage on governments long ago and thus lost their control over it. Legal marriage has nothing to do with God, the Bible, or anything Holy. If there is a devil, however, his mark is on it. Legal marriage is, in fact, a state controlled program. But what type of program is it really? When you come right down to it legal marriage is a welfare system. When you sign up for marriage you are essentially signing up to take care of your partner if they can’t, won’t, or even refuse to make a living so the public doesn’t have to. THAT’S IT. It has nothing to do with love, commitment, etc. It’s a financial contract between you, your partner, and the STATE. Note that the divorce rate in America is 50%. That should tell you something right off but the situation is much worse than that statistic might tell you. There are millions upon millions of people who are stuck in their marriages, slaves to their spouses, over the fear of divorce. Without the financial catastrophe awaiting working people in divorce court, the divorce rate would be ridiculously high. Let me explain. Because my wife, with two college degrees (one paid by me), refused to have a career, I would be responsible for her financially, likely for life. It gets worse. Despite the fact that I’ve earned 99% of the money during our marriage not only would I owe her alimony and pay her portion of child support she would get almost all of our savings and investments. Because I work and she doesn’t I would be left with virtually nothing. She would be retired (actually she’s been retired since her early 30’s so this would be nothing new for her). This is how marriage and divorce really work. Remember, marriage is a welfare system. Those who work pay the way for those who don’t. And the State makes sure you live up to your end of the contract. If I would refuse to work or pay alimony I would end up in PRISON. My choices are stay married, take care of my lazy wife, and see my kids, or get divorced, have nothing, take care of my lazy wife, and rarely see my kids. Modern day slavery exists in America Todd. Trust me, you don’t want to be a part of this. Keep in mind you will not hear many, if any, married people (men especially) say this out loud. It’s a BIG secret. For many married men saying this out loud would land you in divorce court, a fate even worse than marriage. Check out marriage stats for yourself and you’ll see that men are marrying at much lower rates than they used to. I know why. You might ask yourself if this is really what you want for the people in the gay community. I’m willing to write this because I have an expectation of privacy. Don’t ever forget this – the ball and chain is REAL!

  • invalid-0

    Equal rights are not special rights!

  • invalid-0

    “It also puts Republicans in tough spots. I would be surprised if [Sen. Majority Leader] Mike Bishop [R-Rochester] would allow something like this to come to a vote.”
    Hell Yeah ! I honestly think would never allow it to happen. Tolerance has to have borders too by the way. Even if some of them would prefer Anarchy.

  • invalid-0

    Marriage is at all freedom of sex or the permission to sex. Marriage are requirements to the state to support certain kinds of sexual relations. Marriage-it is not right to live with that or other person. So, everyone lives, with whom he wants.

    • crowepps

      See the post above yours about how marriage is slavery for the poor working man forced to support a lazy wife and now your assertion is that the only reason for marriage is sex.  He resents the fact that his wife (who is apparently raising children and doing the housework) is living off his income and you see it as legalized prostitution.  Neither one of you seem to have much understanding of what marriage COULD be if the partners actually wanted to be together.

  • invalid-0

    Marriage is at all freedom of sex or the permission to sex. Marriage are requirements to the state to support certain kinds of sexual relations. Marriage-it is not right to live with that or other person. So, everyone lives, with whom he wants.

  • invalid-0

    Last time the vote was pretty close. 59%/41%, if Michigan has changed in any way then it will get easier and easier for people of the GLBT community to have equality. This is plain and simple… either Michigan passes same-sex marriage, or I move and get married in a different state. Why put my economy into a state with such discrimination to the GLBT community.