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Democrats continue push for gay rights as same-sex couples celebrate one-year marriage anniversaries

This weekend marked the one-year anniversary of the DeBoer decision that briefly legalized same-sex marriage in Michigan in March 2014. To that end, there were some three-hundred one-year wedding anniversaries celebrated around the state yesterday.

The DeBoer case is now one of the cases that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on next month. These cases will likely decide the legality of same-sex marriage in the U.S. by June.

Legislative action

Democrats in Lansing are capitalizing on the DeBoer anniversary and the pending court arguments by introducing legislation to roll back restrictions on marriage rights.

They’ve announced six bills and one resolution to put the question back on the state ballot in order to give voters the chance to repeal the marriage ban adopted in Michigan in 2004.

Not so fast

Getting that question on the ballot would require super-majorities in the Republican-controlled state Legislature, and that’s just not going to happen.

But, Democrats are still using it as a “wedge” issue to remind voters that Democrats have taken a position in favor of gay rights and betting that the polling on the issue is accurate and that the general public is in favor of those rights as well.


What a change from just a few years ago when liberal politicians like Governor Jennifer Granholm and John Kerry, who were considered pretty pro-gay rights at the time, were still, publicly at least, opposed to marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Though national Republicans may now be divided on the issue, that’s not the case for the GOP in the state Legislature. Republicans in Lansing are trying to get ahead of the issue in case the Supreme Court strikes down the bans on same-sex marriage.

A Religious Freedom Restoration Act is in the works, and the House just passed a bill to allow faith-based adoption agencies, mostly ones operated by the Catholic church, that take public funds to place children, to continue to refuse to work with certain couples if there’s a religious objection. That measure is now in front of the state Senate.

Where does Snyder stand?

The legislation would probably be passed in the Senate, and will probably be approved eventually but, for now, Majority Leader Arlan Meekof is in no hurry.

And that is because Governor Rick Snyder is not on board with it.

Snyder has questioned whether the legislation is a good idea. In fact, he’s sent plenty of signals that he’s tired of the controversy over same-sex marriage.

At the first opportunity, after refusing to recognize those 300 same-sex marriages a year ago, Snyder then agreed with a federal judge’s ruling that the marriages should be recognized.

He decided not to appeal the decisionto recognize the marriages and said it’s time to stop litigating the question.

Senator Meekhof does not want to send the governor the adoption bill with the risk of having it vetoed, something the now term-limited Snyder has shown he’s willing to do.

So, the question becomes, what’s next? Will House Republicans grow impatient and start holding up action on Senate bills or action on something the governor wants.

And, let’s be clear, the governor always wants something. This legislation could turn into a chip in negotiations on other issues.

Meanwhile, on top of all of this, we’re also seeing the governor stepping up his relationship-building with Democrats to help make up the difference when, in the future, Republicans won’t go along with his plans which, in Lansing these days, is more than likely.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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