Back in 2004, Michigan passed an amendment to their constitution that reads:
To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose. [emphasis added]
I want you to think about that for a minute. Think of all of the people you know whose health care benefits would be wiped out by such an amendment. Think of all the people you know who would be denied rights as basic as the right to see your lover one last time before he or she died.
You'd be upset about such an amendment, right? You'd raise issues such as this in opposition:
“It’s probably those six extra words — ‘or similar union for any purpose,’” says Jay Kaplan, of the Detroit office of the ACLU. “I presume it will include things like civil unions, and it could prohibit state and local governmental entities from providing domestic partner benefits or recognizing civil unions, and it could prevent private employers from recognizing them too.”
Dana Houle, spokesman for Coalition for a Fair Michigan, a group that opposes the proposal, says, “That really is the key point. If the backers of Proposal 2 only wanted to ban same-sex marriage, which is already illegal, they could have left off the last six words. I think that shows that they have other intentions besides just banning same-sex marriage.”
And you may not be reassured by the Citizens for the Protection of Marriage's claims to the contrary:
Proposal 2 is Only about marriage. Marriage is a union between husband and wife. Proposal 2 will keep it that way. This is not about rights or benefits or how people choose to live their lives. (Emphasis in original) [from a pamphlet distributed by CPM, quoted in Michigan Messenger]
[Karen] 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 marriage.” [The Michigan Daily]
You may be skeptical of arguments put forth by CPM fellow travellers:
This position is echoed by Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, who says, “Under that policy, every single person currently receiving any kind of benefit would continue to do so. But it would not be on the basis of a government employer singling out homosexual relationships for the special treatment of being recognized as equal or similar to marriage.” [Metro Times Detroit]
Furthermore, the two groups that lead the campaign for passage of the amendment, Citizens for the Protection of Marriage and the American Family Association of Michigan, both insisted that the language concerned "marriage only." Campaign director Marlene Elwell, according to published reports, said: "This has nothing to do with taking benefits away. This is about marriage between a man and a woman." [ACLU press release]
You might experience a niggling feeling of doom when hearing about incidents like this:
Patrick Gillen, an attorney with the [Thomas More Law Center] who helped write the amendment, has represented the center in a suit against Ann Arbor public schools for offering domestic partner benefits.
Gillen, who did not return calls from Metro Times, recently represented the Citizens for the Protection of Marriage before the Michigan Board of Canvassers.
“When asked by our attorney if he could say that it was not their intent to use the vague language to challenge domestic partnerships and civil unions, he refused to answer,” says Houle.
You may ask why he couldn't answer that question. And you probably won't be surprised to learn that the whole constellation of organizations pushing to ban gay marriage were lying sacks of shit.
But the ink was barely dry on the ballots before those who advocated the proposal began filing lawsuits to prohibit the same partnership benefits in public employee contracts that they adamantly denied would be affected before the vote took place. The Thomas More Law Center, led by Patrick Gillen, who had also acted as counsel for the CFPM and had actually written the ballot language, immediately filed suit against Ann Arbor Public Schools and against Michigan State University to void partnership benefits in their union contracts; both suits were dismissed for lack of standing by the plaintiffs.
Unfortunately, the issue did not end there. Just one month prior to the election, state employees had finished negotiating a contract with the state of Michigan that included domestic partnership benefits. A month after the election, Governor Granholm and the public employees unions agreed to remove that language from the contracts pending a court ruling on whether the new law prohibited them. Attorney General Mike Cox subsequently issued a legal opinion indicating that such benefits do indeed violate the language of the ballot initiative and the city of Kalamazoo then voided similar language in their own union contracts.
The ACLU then filed suit against Governor Granholm and Attorney General Mike Cox on behalf of 21 same-sex couples and the National Pride at Work organization, asking the court to grant declaratory relief and rule that the language that Proposal 2 inserted into the Michigan state constitution does not prohibit the extension of partnership benefits to same-sex couples by public employers. The trial court judge found in favor of the ACLU. The Court of Appeals then overturned that decision and ruled that the language does rule out such benefits. The case is now pending before the Michigan Supreme Court, where oral arguments are expected to be heard the first week of November.
Let us recap, briefly: bigoted motherfuckers propose anti-gay marriage amendment, opponents argue said amendment could be used to deny benefits to same-sex couples, bigoted motherfuckers say "Oh, pshaw and pish! That's not what it's about at all," enough citizens are snowed by bigoted motherfuckers to pass anti-gay amendment, and the instant it's passed, bigoted motherfuckers say "Ha, ha, fooled you!" and start filing lawsuits to deny benefits to same-sex couples.
The Citizens for the Protection of Marriage, who were never "about taking benefits away from people," gleefully filed an amicus brief with the Michigan Supreme Court explaining why their amendment was all about taking benefits away from people [pdf]:
The decision below correctly held that policies recognizing same-sex domestic partnerships violate Michigan's Marriage Amendment. For there is no question that by means of such policies recognition is given to the agreement of same-sex partners to unite in an intimate union labeled a "domestic partnership" an illicit parallel to the marriage agreement recognized by the state law of civil marriage. As demonstrated above, and found by the court below, there is no question that the "domestic partnership" is a union of same-sex partners that is similar to marriage. And there is no question that such policies recognize the union of the same-sex partners in a "domestic partnership" for the purpose of providing medical and other benefits to same-sex partners of employees. For these reasons, such policies are contrary to the plain meaning of Article I, [statute] 25, which provides that "the union of one man and one women [sic] in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose." By the same token, such policies enter into an arena that has been preempted by the People of the State of Michigan. And for this reason, policies which seek to recognize same-sex domestic partnerships for the purpose of providing benefits are unlawful.
The Michigan Supreme Court agreed. Same-sex partners in Michigan get to kiss their benefits goodbye. The bigoted motherfuckers lied their way to a major legal victory.
These dishonest sleazebags share the same tactics as the IDiots, the Republicon Party, and all the other little it's-moral-to-lie-if-you're-lying-for-Jesus pieces of shit. I think that would be a good thing to keep in mind the next time they try to assure you that their noxious little proposals have "nothing to do" with raping decent people up the ass. Their twisted views of rights, decency and morality mean they will joyfully deceive you into helping them tie the noose they plan to use on your very own neck.
They all lie. Don't you ever forget it.
Tip o' the shot glass to Ed Brayton for breaking the bad news.