True purpose of Michigan’s marriage amendment comes to light.

I wasn’t pleased the day my fellow Michigan voters decided to add a bigoted and discriminatory amendment to our state constitution banning gay marriage and I wrote several times in the past about how the intent behind the law was not only to prevent gay marriages from happening in this state, but to strip people of their domestic partnership benefits. The referendum was written by Thomas Moore Law Center attorney Patrick Gillen and by Michigan AFA President Gary Glenn and it was sold the people of Michigan as being only about marriage and not about issues such as benefits for gay partners.

So then perhaps one of the two of them can explain why the TMLC has filed a lawsuit against MSU accusing the school of violating the marriage amendment by offering domestic partner benefits:

LANSING—A conservative group sued Wednesday to stop Michigan State University from offering health insurance to the partners of gay workers and said the school is violating a 2004 amendment to the state constitution.

The American Family Association of Michigan filed the lawsuit in Ingham County Circuit Court and hopes to get a ruling setting a precedent that would block domestic-partner benefits at other state universities.

The purpose of the suit is to ensure that courts rule on the constitutionality of domestic-partner benefits at public universities, said Patrick Gillen, an attorney for the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, which is representing the association.

By providing same-sex benefits, MSU is “recognizing same-sex marriage in substance, if not by label,” Gillen said.

Fellow Michigan resident Ed Brayton has an excellent writeup of the TMLC’s hypocrisy over at his blog:

The behavior of the TMLC and the CFPM in this situation is appalling. Over and over again during the campaign for Proposal 2 in 2004, they assured the public that the amendment would not have any effect on domestic partnership benefits. The Detroit News, in November 2005, quoted several people who voted for the amendment as saying that if they had known the law would outlaw such benefits they never would have voted for it.

What makes this even more enraging is the sheer hypocrisy of the anti-gay marriage groups. These people talk in lofty terms about morality, yet they blatantly lie to the public about what this proposal would do and then, the moment it’s passed, begin filing suits to do exactly what they assured us the law would not do. I would go so far as to say that Gillen, at least, should be under investigation by the bar association for this. He told the public one thing in advocating a law, then tries to use the law to do what he said it would not do. That’s a pretty clear breach of ethics in my view.

Why doesn’t it surprise me that the folks behind the push for the amendment would openly and blatantly lie to the public about their true intentions? So long as they get their way they’ll tell you whatever they think will get you to vote their way. Michigan voters enacted an amendment that institutionalizes bigotry and the elimination of freedoms for no good reason. It makes me ashamed of my home state.

22 thoughts on “True purpose of Michigan’s marriage amendment comes to light.

  1. Ed Brayton: I would go so far as to say that Gillen, at least, should be under investigation by the bar association for this. He told the public one thing in advocating a law, then tries to use the law to do what he said it would not do. That’s a pretty clear breach of ethics in my view.

    Gillen’s defence will be: It’s okay to lie and cheat if you’re doing dog’s work. smile

  2. Can somebody actually find a quote of Gillen (or any TMLC official rep, or even CFPM official rep)saying this?

    I searched around, and found references to a October 27, 2004 Detroit News article…but I couldn’t find the actual article, and the bit I found was just a snipet.

    I firmly believe that people were lied to on this, but I’d love to find a specific quoteable reference to Gillen himself lying, if he did.

  3. Ah yes, the Thomas Moore Law Center.  Somehow not surprising that the same people who defended ID in Dover are involved in this too: forcing their beliefs on others in the Name of the Lord.  They were similarly hypocritical in Dover, but luckily they got nailed for it there.

  4. Andy:

    We Michiganders seem to be hellbent on getting ourselves down to the Kansas standard. We’ve got Mr. Amway running for governor; that’d certainly be a step in the stupid direction…


  5. This is just horrible. I can’t believe it.

    Does anyone know what this might mean for common-law relationships? I mean, if this is passed, will you lose your beneifts if you are co-habiting?? Gee, that’s just what America needs: more people without medical coverage.

  6. Les, you don’t understand.  They meant that it wouldn’t threaten domestic-partner benefits FOR HETEROSEXUALS.

    It’s all about persecuting gays.

  7. Oddly enough, I just checked the University of Michigan’s website (group benefits and restrictions are always listed) and it appears that they only offer coverage to married couples and same-sex partners but NOT to cohabiting heterosexuals.

    I’ve never heard of this before. Is this common in the US??

  8. I don’t understand why anyone is surprised.  A politician or a lawyer lying???  What?? How did that happen?

    Most voters don’t have a clue about what the issues are much less the bills designed to solve them, and everytime I think “Well, things can’t get any worse.”  They get worse.

    And people call ME an optimist smile

  9. Re: cohabitating straights, domestic benefits, etc.

    I am not surprised at the denial of benefits to cohabitating straights as opposed to homosexual partners.  It seems to reason out this way: if you are straight you can get married whereas gays are forced to live in sin.  Therefore, the University will not support immorality among the straight crowd but since gays are doomed anyway, why not throw them a bone, so to speak?

    This is the pernicious flipside of the “Marriage is a union between A man and A woman” argument.  If you want to cohabitate (which is still illegal in several states, not that it stopped me when I lived in Virginia [which is technically a commonwealth, but I digress]) then you should get married since you can, being A man and A woman.  Living together does not usually provide any official economic benefit without the imprimatur of state sanction in the form of marriage or, more recently, civil union.

    Of course, my argument is that marriage is government’s business only insofar as it is a contract that may need enforcement.  In a free society governments would only acknowledge the contract you freely entered into and would lack the power to refuse or deny your right to enter into that contract with whomever you chose.  Gay marriage, polygamy (as opposed to bigamy, which would be construed as violating the terms of the contract of marriage and therefore a civil rather than criminal matter), marriageless cohabitation, none of these things concern me or anyone else save those involved, and therefore should not concern government either.

    Unfortunately, most conservative people do not see it that way, and remain deeply offended and afraid of gay marriage, polygamy and cohabitation.

  10. So to add my two cents worth…

    As a heterosexual couple, you can be married by any church or none at all.  However, it is the STATE that gives you the marriage license and only when the STATE receives the completed license with the appropriate signatures are you officially “married” and can receive those nifty benefits.  It is the STATE that is deliberately excluding people from legal benefits that the STATE (and Fed) provides.  The Catholic church doesn’t provide these benefits.  The Southern Baptists don’t provide these benefits.  The [Enter religious denomination here] doesn’t provide these benefits.  So why should any of them have a say?  So really, the states are practicing discrimination.  Wait, haven’t we seen this before (I smell seperate but equal)?

    Do I care that my brother’s boyfriend wont be able to make (legally) medical judgemets on his behalf in his time of need (who is with him every day, who probably knows him the best)?  Absolutely.  Or what about in the event of my brothers death?  The property my brother owns does not automatically go to his boyfriend.  What rights does his boyfriend of 10 years have?  None. 

    People can argue all day long about marriage being “between a man and a woman” blah blah blah – religion this, religion that.  Fine.  Whatever.  I disagree. And besides, marriage is no longer a “religious” affair if the STATE has to “approve” it.  It’s a legal affair.  I don’t care who anyone is sleeping with.  I care about my brother’s welfare and the welfare of his partner, and people like them.

    You know, its ok to promote herpes meds on TV and act like having herpes is no big deal, but don’t let two gay men (or two lesbians) get married! Oh wait, you can catch herpes, but you cant catch “gay”.

  11. An addittional penny from me.

    Do I care that my brother’s boyfriend wont be able to make (legally) medical judgemets on his behalf in his time of need (who is with him every day, who probably knows him the best)? 

    Then please advise him to complete a rather simple medical power of attorney.  I suspect, without knowing, that the hospital in your area has these and a copy to be completed by him can be obtained for no charge.

    Or what about in the event of my brothers death? ?  The property my brother owns does not automatically go to his boyfriend. What rights does his boyfriend of 10 years have? 

    All the property rights your brother wants him to have when he completes his will and/or establishes his trust.

    ….it is the STATE that gives you the marriage license and only when the STATE receives the completed license with the appropriate signatures are you officially “married

  12. Great, Consi, just great.  Now tell me how the hell my FAMILY and FRIENDS and THEIR PARTNERS are supposed to get the rest of these benefits:

    On the order of 1,400 legal rights are conferred upon married couples in the U.S. Typically these are composed of about 400 state benefits and over 1,000 federal benefits. Among them are the rights to:
    –  joint parenting;
    –  joint adoption;
    –    joint foster care, custody, and visitation (including non-biological parents);
    –    status as next-of-kin for hospital visits and medical decisions where one partner is too ill to be competent;
    –  joint insurance policies for home, auto and health;
    –  dissolution and divorce protections such as community property and child support;
    –  immigration and residency for partners from other countries;
    –  inheritance automatically in the absence of a will;
    –  joint leases with automatic renewal rights in the event one partner dies or leaves the house or apartment;
    –  inheritance of jointly-owned real and personal property through the right of survivorship (which avoids the time and expense and taxes in probate);
    –  benefits such as annuities, pension plans, Social Security, and Medicare;
    –  spousal exemptions to property tax increases upon the death of one partner who is a co-owner of the home;
    –  veterans’ discounts on medical care, education, and home loans; joint filing of tax returns;
    –  joint filing of customs claims when traveling;
    –  wrongful death benefits for a surviving partner and children;
    –  bereavement or sick leave to care for a partner or child;
    –  decision-making power with respect to whether a deceased partner will be cremated or not and where to bury him or her;
    –  crime victims’ recovery benefits;
    –  loss of consortium tort benefits;
    –  domestic violence protection orders;
    –  judicial protections and evidentiary immunity;
    –  and more….

    (from )

    We the people, acting via our representatives in 43 states have defined marriage.

    “We the people” are the same bigots who protested against the rights of fellow humans in other eras.  They needed to be pushed into progressing out of their inbred intolerance.  If we want to change it, we need a critical mass of courageous, moral people in the judiciary, which is what worked for the other cases.  The “conservatives” will pout for a while and then get on with their lives when they realize the world hasn’t ended.

    If we’d waited for “we the people” to get over their idiotic prejudices and do the right thing, we’d still have slavery, segregation and subjugation.  I don’t think so.  What we need is MORE militancy, not less.

  13. What we need is MORE militancy, not less.

    Yeah.  Tell me how that works out for y’all.

  14. Yeah.  Tell me how that works out for y’all.

    I’m gonna bet it’s a better strategy than holding out our hands with a ‘please, sir.  Could I have some more?’

  15. We the people, acting via our representatives in 43 states have defined marriage.

    Technically, religion defined marriage.  Fine, call it something else if semantics is your issue.  However, the fact still remains that you are purpously denying a group of individuals benefits based on the fact that you don’t “like” their sexual partners and wont allow them to gain the same benefits.  They want the same benefits, they want to be married/civil union/recconized by the STATE that they are a legal “married” entity.  How does it hurt anyone if you allow gay marriage?

    Then please advise him to complete a rather simple medical power of attorney…will and/or establishes his trust.

    If people (straight or gay) do NOT want to be married for whatever reason, but still want to afford for certain “privleges”, then yes, I absolutely agree with you Consigliere.  However, if two people want to make that “life commitment” then they should be allowed to, regardless of who they sleep with.

    Thanks to GeekMom for the list of bennies!

  16. What we really need is something like the old clan structure.  Then we could just designate someone as ‘kin’ and that’s that.  It’s our money, possessions, benefits.  We should be allowed to extend those benefits to anyone we want to.  This marriage thing IS religious.  You could even argue that it violates the separation of Church and State to attach legal benefits to a religious ceremony.  If the two werent so intertwined in the minds of religious folks, this would be a non-issue.  The churches should be able to refuse the ceremony to whoever they want to, but how can anyone justify denying that kind of legal coverage to someone because their gay when we can’t even refuse to hire someone on those grounds?

  17. Consi, I agree and disagree with you here. Sorry Geekmom, you live in what is now, politically, a Christian nation; also an elitist society. Good luck getting gay marriage to pass like that. No amount of militancy makes that change. I’ve said before, people demand others who will play their apologists. It’s getting that notion into the seats of power that works best. And right now, there are at least a few who are well aware that manipulating the Christian element in America is working very, very well. Running to the courts and hoping they’ll come to the rescue seems like a desperate gambit, and a short-sighted strategy at best.

    To that end, Consi, I disagree with you in the idea that marriage is defined by we the people. Marriage was a religious institution – that’s exactly the reason why it’s not changing. The religious agenda is the government agenda. I also disagree that the public will be won-over without phenomenal public advertizing budgets or movements to change public opinion. That’s why we’ve got the cuts to PBS on one hand and Fox News’ associations with the Republican party on the other.

    I have to say here, though, I hope [the activists] actions do not represent the “liberal” public at large. If so, I’m disappointed; they’re simply too naive.

  18. arc_legion, thanks for making a point I wanted to make:  that denying gays the right to marry the people they love IS elitist.  It’s also immoral.  Yes, I’m coming out and accusing anti-gay conservatives of being elitist and immoral.  It’s about time we exposed their hypocrisy for what it is and took their shields away from them.

    Is there a legal right to marry?  Yes, and the implication is that people have the right to marry the consenting adult of their choice.  There was no need to get explicit and say “African-Americans also have the right to marry,” or “people have the right to marry someone of another race,” until elitists tried to deny the legal right of marriage to those particular people. 

    Trying to fall back on legal arguments such as “it doesn’t actually say you have the right to same-sex marriage” as if it were a completely different right is ridiculous.  It’s the refuge of someone who knows his argument can’t stand on moral grounds. 

    Also, the right of women to vote and the civil rights of minorities weren’t won by “phenomenal advertising budgets.”  They were won by people who pushed hard enough that the opponents decided that continuing to fight would cost them too much.  And in the case of the civil rights movement, it also involved pointing out just how immoral inequality is.  It didn’t involve sugar-coating and soft-pedaling. 

    Yes, we live in an elitist, Christian country.  But that has always been the case, and it’s no reason to back off from the fight now.  We may have lost one battle, but not the war.  Time is on our side.  In a generation or two, our descendants will wonder what the fuss was all about over something so self-evident as letting people marry the people they love, regardless of sex.

  19. arc_legion: Running to the courts and hoping they’ll come to the rescue seems like a desperate gambit, and a short-sighted strategy at best.

    But the courts is where this is going to be fought, just like everything else pertaining to civil rights was.  Yes, this IS a civil rights issue.  If it were happening to blacks, then no one would even question THAT argument.  But without further clarification on LEGAL, not religious grounds, denying marriage to gays can’t and wont work.  Unless they can find some reason to ban gays from marriage that doesn’t have anything to do with religion, then eventually, you will have the right to marry who you chose regardless of gender.  It’s already started.  The way the laws are written, opponents to gay marriage don’t have a leg to stand on.  Why do you think they’ve tried to make a constitutional ammendment for the entire country?  If even one state allows it (and we already have one already) then half the work is done already.  I’m not saying that it will be short or easy, but it’s going to be a damned sight easier than civil rights for blacks was.  We’re headed towards legalizing gay marriage for the country, unless the Christian right can do something to stop it, and something other than bringing up the ‘sacred institution’ crap.  Even the latest “vicotries” by the opposition to gay marriage are just line drawing and choosing up sides.  The real battles on this issue have yet to be fought, and the “pro” team has the bigger guns.

  20. The “militant, activist” approach has worked very well so far- human rights in the US have progressed pretty fast over the past 30-odd years. (Although not as fast as elsewhere. I went to an event here in Reykjavik last month celebrating the passage of several laws which have effectively created full marriage equality- making Iceland the first country in the world to do so. The laws were passed on the 27th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in NYC, which essentially kicked off the entire worldwide gay rights movement, ten years before Iceland had a gay-rights organization of any sort. Several Icelanders at the event commented that it was funny that my country had started the movement, only to have their country finish it. I agreed that this was “funny”- just hilarious.)

    In any case, without the “militant activism”, GLBT people never would have had the level of visibility and equality that they have acheived. So while I am the first to agree that the gay rights movement could use some strategic rethinking, we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the activist approach overall.

    Also, it’s absurd to claim that people should wait until the majority of the country deigns to grant them rights, rather than use the system of democracy to fight for those rights. It’s absurd to claim the effectiveness of doing so even if you don’t think the rights in question actually exist. As I’ve said time and time again when this issue comes up, take a look at the poll numbers on interracial marriage before the SCOTUS declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional in 1967. If not for the Supreme Court decision, we’d probably still be fighting that battle.

    The basic fact of the matter is that a healthy democracy should always tend to grant rights rather than take them away, even when dealing with contentious issues, and particularly when dealing with actions between consenting adults. Contrary to what many social conservatives might say, this is the true way to “err on the side of caution.”

    (And for the record, rights regarding interracial and gay relationships were definitely rights that were that were taken away only to be re-granted, not rights that were somehow recently created whole-cloth, as is so often alleged.)

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